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HORNS ACROSS THE WATER: SATANISM IN BRITAIN AND AMERICA ----- ------ --- ----- -------- -- ------- --- ------- by Michael A. Aquino,Ph.D High Priest, Temple of Set -------------------------- -------------------------- Retrospectively, it is difficult to say why British and American Satanic movements haven't interacted more with one another over the last two decades. The two principal American Satanic institutions - the Temple of Set and its forerunner, the Church of Satan - both inherited key components of their symbolism and ritual practices from British occult predecessors. And since we have enjoyed twenty-two years of success in the U.S. and Canada, it would seem natural that we would have developed overseas contacts in the U.K. With the exception of a few isolated memberships from time to time, however, such cross-fertilization never took place. During the same two decades, American Satanists have seen very little evidence of a strong Satanic culture in Britain. British occultism seems perpetually polarized into two principal camps, the Wiccan (in which one may lump neo-Druids and other assorted back-to-nature New Agers) and the quasi-Mas- onic (in which one may lump Rosicrucian, Thelemic, Theosophical, and other assorted Cabalistic/ceremonial movements). Wiccans - if yours are like ours - huffily deny any conncection with Satanism, although they are quite happy to affect and exploit the SATANIC glamor of the term "witch". And while Rosicrucian movements are frequently labe:ed "cults" - hence "evil" - by conventional churches, anyone who has studied them realizes that, if anything, they are even MORE pious where the "Great Architect of the Universe" is concerned. Even Thelema, popularly regarded as the "bad boy" of Rosicrucianism, shies away from the Left-Hand Path. Although Crowley never hesitated to invoke Satanic imagery when it suited his whimsical or satirical purposes, he certainly did not consider either himself or his philosophy as Satanic in the traditional sense. Contemporary America's first taste of something resembling an undiluted British Satanism came from the U.S. publication in the 1960's of three of Dennis Wheatley's Satanic novels: THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, and THE SATANIST. Wheatley borrowed liberally from G.'.D.'./A.'.A.'. terminology, of course, but still managed to portray his LHP villains as straight line Satanists rather than as Thelemites. Wheatley's Satanists were elegant, powerful, mysteri- ous, and [except for the inevitable triumph-of-God finale] insidiously successful in whatever they wanted to do. This was a powerful aphrodisiac for certain American occultists who were impatient with "parlor" esoterica. A San Francisco sorceror named Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966, and the spectacular success of "ROSEMARY'S BABY" a couple of years later catapulted the Church into national prominence. The Church of Satan borrowed more atmosphere than substance from Wheatley. It had been conceived not as an "inverse-Christianity" movement, but rather as one dedicated to responsible and guilt-free self indulgence. Judaeo/- Christianity was castigated for its hypocrisy and repression; otherwise it was considered irrelevant. Although the Black Mass was included in the Church's ceremonial inventory, it consisted of highly stylized psychodrama rather than ritual murder, crucified bats, or turnip-attacks on virgins. The open, experimental culture of the late 60's and early 70's in the United States was stimulating to the growth of the Church of Satan. It developed local Grottos in many major cities, and its Priests and Priestesses were always in demand for lectures, media appearances, and symposia. By the early 1970's it had grown to a total membership of about 250 individuals, and was well on its way to becoming a permanent fixture in American society. The Church of Satan didn't successfully transmigrate to the U.K., however, and never had more than one or two British members. Its activities were primarily U.S.-focused, and no real thought was given to encouraging overseas affiliations. Then, in 1975, disaster struck. Anton LaVey suddenly announced that the Satanic Priesthood and all higher initiatory degrees in the Church would henceforth be available in return for cash contributions. Previously they had been strictly achievement-determined, and the Satanic Priesthood in particular had been regarded as a sacred office. Virtually the entire functioning infrastructure of the Church resigned in protest and created the Temple of Set to carry forward the principles of Satanism in their uncorrupted form. At the same time the symbolism and imagery employed were removed from the constraints of the Judaeo/Christian idiom. Set became the recognized image for the Powers of Darkness in their earliest historical personification by humanity, and many of the ceremonial Workings of the Temple oncorporated Egyptian, rather than medieval or Renaissance European imagery accordingly. The Temple of Set, however, is not merely or even principally a neo-Egyptian institution. From its founding it has endeavored to apprehend and incorporate the principles of what Judaeo/Christian culture caricatures as "Satanism" from all cultures and philosophical patterns of thought. Specialized Orders within the Temple exist much as academic departments in universities, to enable Setians to focus their personal initiatory efforts in areas most interesting and meaningful to them. While there are local groups (Pylons) within the Temple, similar to the old Church of Satn's Grottos, the Temple is configured to function primarily on an interpersonal basis. Most of its members are geographically remote from one another, co our administrative services emphasize maximum use of the electronic and postal mails. This would seem to be an ideal situation for international interaction with the U.K., but once again the Temple devoted more time to building up its Untied States base of activity than to overseas expansion. And, in another deliberate departure from the Church of Satan, the Temple declined media exposure almost without exception - the rationale being that such activities had at least to some extent turned the Church of Satan - not unlike many other modern occult personal- ities or movements - into a "media whore" whose worth tended to be judged by press coverage. Disgusted with media-whore occultism in general, the Temple founders determined that we would concentrate on our own magical and philosophi- cal development, and let the Temple grow primarily by the individual recommenda- tions of satisfied Initiates. That accoun ted for the growth of the Temple in North America, but was not conducive to overseas exposure. Visiting London in 1983, I looked around for individuals or organizations suitable for contact. In the U.S. we usually begin with specialized bookstores. Most London bookdealers, however, responded with something between mild distaste and outright horror when even the topic of Crowley was brought up, much less Satanism. Eventually I found my way to the Atlantis Bookshop, which by all accounts was the most diabolical bookstore in the city - but even its "Satanic" inventory was comparatively sparse and outdated. I left some Temple brochures with the old gentleman behind the counter, but his shocked reaction to the existence of a large, institutional Satanic religious organization didn't reassure me that they would be prominently displayed. [I should append that in 1987 I revisited Atlantis, now under new management, and was graciously recei- ved.] The turning-point has apparently come with the British release of Nevill Drury's Australian book THE OCCULT EXPERIENCE, which includes a chapter on the Temple of Set. [THE OCCULT EXPERIENCE was originally a documentary film - remarkable not only for its first coverage of the Temple of Set, but also for Alex Saunders accidentally setting his Aztec jockstrap on fire, New York city shamans howling and waving rattles, H.R. Giger's mother telling him to behave himself, Wiccans freezing skyclad in the snow, and the Fellowship of Ithith.] THE OCCULT EXPERIENCE has prompted a number of inquiries, and several new affiliations, from the U.K. Each year the Temple holds a Conclave where Initiates can meet for business, fellowship, and magical Workings. Although our fall 1988 Conclave is already set for Toronto, we are thinking of London for the fall 1989 event. This would enable as least some trans-Atlantic Setians to meet their British brethern, and would also bring a Conclave within easier reach of our Initiates in Belgium, Germany, and Spain. A unique philosophical identity for Satanism is not really all that hard to establish. It focuses upon humanity as an actor exercising and strengthening its conscious opposition to the non-conscious inertia of the cosmos, not as a part of that cosmos whose salvation lies in the direction of increased assimilation into it. Here the Satanist is closer to Machiavelli, Hobbes, Nietzsche than to Crowley, and deliberately cultivates what Eric Hoffer referred to as "the unnaturalness of human nature". Once this principle is postulated, an entire corpus of initiatory development - the TRUE Left-Hand Path - opens before the aspirant. It is precisely upon this exhilarating adventure that first the Church of Satan and then the Temple of Set have been embarked these past 22 years. Therein, we feel, are to be found the true secrets of human psychic evolution and deification. It would be pleasant indeed to share this adventure with fellow Satanists from those magical islands in the North Sea which can justly claim to be one of the world's true centers of civilization. We would like to see the Temple of Set become truly international. And if British Satanists yearn for the elegant malevolence of Charles Gray in his portrayal of Dennis Wheatley's Mocata ["I will not be back...but SOMETHING will!"], well, we shall not try to disappoint them in that regard either.


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