The birth of the Age of Fire

Reverend Ray shares the history of the often misunderstood Church of Satan, and how its founder went

Anton Szandor LaVey founded The Church Of Satan on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht) 1966. He had neither planned or even expected to be the founder of a new religion but he had, since the beginning of the 1950s, been an iconoclastic explorer of the left-hand path and having worked (amongst other things) as a police scenes of crime photographer, circus lion tamer and paranormal investigator LaVey became somewhat of a character on the San Francisco social scene. He began holding “Witches Workshops” at his infamous Black House on California Street. These soirées became events that attracted a number of notables of the time, including Baroness Carin de Plessen, Dr. Cecil Nixon and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger. These gatherings threw together business tycoons, writers, artists and even the grandson of a U.S President and formed what became known as The Magic Circle. Symbolising the Circle’s investigations into the psychological effects of demonic geometry, the group evolved into what became known as The Order Of The Trapezoid, which endures to this day as the governing body within The Church Of Satan.

It may come as a surprise for most to discover that prior to the founding of The Church Of Satan in 1966, Satanism as a codified and established religion did not exist. In the middle ages there had indeed been Christian heretics who, rebelling against the powerful authoritarianism wielded by the churches of the time, held black masses as a means of denouncing their faith. But outside of Hollywood studios and the active imaginations of horror genre writers we, The Church Of Satan, are the first above ground organisation openly dedicated to the acceptance of man’s true nature – that of a carnal beast living in a world that offers a plenitude of delights for those of us who denounce the hogwash of spiritual, faith based religions that have made it their avowed aim to permeate civilisation with repressive morals and ethics, serving only to thwart and denigrate the fountainhead of creativity that flows naturally and purely within the human animal.

In Blanche Barton's book The Church Of Satan, Anton LaVey espouses how he saw that there needed to be a new representative of justice. Not some ethereal, mystic, white bearded deity shrouded in divinity but a true human advocate who would stand as a proud archetype symbolising the God-hood of man. In 1969 LaVey solidified and presented the fundamental bedrock of Satanism in The Satanic Bible - still widely available today, it remains the cornerstone and primary text of Satanism. Additionally, LaVey authored a companion to his bible entitled The Satanic Rituals, two books of essays - The Devil's Notebook and Satan Speaks - and his notorious The Satanic Witch.

Anton LaVey died on 29th October 1997, leaving The Church Of Satan under the auspices of his long time partner and then High Priestess, Blanche Barton and the many individuals appointed to the Priesthood Of Mendes. On Walpurgisnacht 2001 Blanche Barton appointed a new High Priest – a long time member of the priesthood and personal comrade of Anton LaVey, Peter H. Gilmore. The following year Blanche appointed Peter Gilmore’s wife, Peggy Nadramia as High Priestess so that she herself could remain in an administrative capacity within the church but also devote more time to raising her son (by Anton LaVey) Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey.

Now in our 42nd year and with our epicurean members all around the world, we continue to forward the tenets and philosophies established by Anton LaVey. Having said that, you will neither see nor hear any pulpit harangues from any of us. We do not preach. Rather, we lead by example through the examples we set. The chances are you have already run into our members and not even known it! The Church Of Satan is indeed a threat to the established (and often pious) mores that govern society. But the threat does not come in the shape or form they expect. The iconoclastic individuals who make up our ranks include members of the police force, those serving in the military, professional sportsmen and even government officials. In addition, a great number of Satanists work in the arts as writers, film directors, painters and musicians and over the course of our history some people of note who are, or who have at some point, been affiliated with us include the Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield, Sammy Davis Jnr, Marilyn Manson and Marc Almond.

True to our maxim that “you can’t nail custard to a wall”, we remain a loosely knit cabal of individuals often staying out of sight and pulling the strings from the shadows.

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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The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder