Here’s an excerpt of chapter 9, “Anton Szandor LaVey and the Church of Satan,” from Lords of the Left-Hand Path: Forbidden Practices and Spiritual Heresies by Stephen E Flowers [also] which is offered at the Reading Room with permission from Inner Traditions.
THE SATANIC COSMOLOGY
Or The World According to the Abominable Dr. LaVey
Anton LaVey was not, nor did he intend to be, a systematic philosopher. He was more a weaver of images—a sorcerous philosopher—a performance artist working in the social and imagistic media of the latter twentieth century. As such, it requires some work and, I hope, some sympathetic understanding to illicit from his written works the essence of his worldview. In many ways LaVey poses some new questions for the would-be follower of the left-hand path. The role of society and of the interaction with other human beings (or the lack of same) become essential to his satanic philosophy. But equipped with the analytical questions I have put to all the earlier schools of the left-hand path, the encounter with LaVey’s Church of Satan yields a great harvest of new ideas about the nature and scope of the path of the left-hand. LaVey’s satanic cosmology will be seen to be materialistic, cyclical, dualistic, and limited. The problem of the position of the will of the satanic magician within this cosmos remains, however.
LaVey’s system of thought was based on a uniquely magical form of materialism. For him all things that exist do so in a material form. There is no such thing as “spirit,” “god,” or “heaven” as commonly believed in and taught by orthodox religions or held by popular superstition. This theoretical idea is the proverbial forest of LaVey’s system, which the trees of individual manifestations of this concept sometimes obscure. It is easier to see the materialism in his understanding of mankind or the workings of magic than in the impersonal abstraction of cosmology. LaVey always begins and ends with concrete things that can be sensed. This approach rarely led him off into abstract speculation.
For LaVey “God” (i.e., the ultimate power in the universe) is Nature and Satan is the embodiment of Nature. This is not to reduce LaVey’s philosophy to pure objectivistic positivism. There is indeed, and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, a definite metaphysics embedded in LaVey’s materialism. The world may be a material reality only, but its functions can be so mysterious that vast amounts of its true character and structure remain hidden from normal mankind’s view and understanding.
For the most part man brings this ignorance upon himself—it is simply more comfortable to be ignorant for most people.
LaVey’s metaphysical materialism is not entirely original. He derived much of it from a number of sources that seem to include the Epicureans (whom he sometimes invoked), de Sade (ultimately de la Metterie), Marx, and Freud (whom he admired). It is this long-standing tradition of philosophical materialism, which more than anything else LaVey identifies as the Satanic philosophy or tradition. Here he is very much in keeping with the attitudes of the Slavs, both ancient and modern, who in their dualistic folk religion identified God with the spiritual world and the Devil with the material one.
CYCLES OF FIRE AND ICE
The clearest statements made by LaVey concerning the abstract order of the cosmos are concerned with cycles or rhythms. In the Satanic Rituals he wrote two pages (219-20) under the heading “The Unknown Known.” Here he outlines a theory of the successive Ages of the world that cycle or oscillate between Ages of Ice in which “God” rules and man (= Satan) is suppressed and Ages of Fire in which man rules and “God is beneath.” These cycles are governed by the Law of Nine.
First there is a nine-year period characterized by action, then a subsequent nine-year period characterized by reaction to that original impetus. Taken together the eighteen-year span of time is called a “Working.” Nine Workings equal an Era (162 years), and nine Eras add up to an Age (1,458 years), and nine Ages equal an Epoch (13,122 years).
The last Age of Ice came to an end in 1966. This pattern of oscillation between extremes is the clearest abstract model for another leitmotif in LaVey’s thought: dualism. Dualism will be discussed at length in the next section, but another aspect of the cyclical pattern must not be overlooked: that of rhythm. Perhaps welling up from LaVey’s obvious native musical nature and talent is an inherent sense of rhythm. He often writes of the importance of music to magic and even concerning the primacy of rhythm over the actual meanings of words in magical incantations.
The role of rhythms in ordering the world is specifically addressed in a Cloven Hoof article in 1980 titled “Mega-rhythms.” Here LaVey claims to be able to chart future public likes and dislikes “based on one simple rule: the attraction of opposites.” If it’s in today, it’s destined by this mega-rhythmic law to be out tomorrow. The timing of these shifts is presumably somehow coordinated with the oscillation process within the Working eighteen-year period.
“Angles” form another abstract construct that gives shape to LaVey’s cosmology. These “angles”—geometrical models, which seem to have the power to create certain effects in the objective and subjective universes—are most precisely discussed in a Cloven Hoof article titled “The Law of the Trapezoid.” This Law states that figures or spaces made up of obtuse or acute angles (those less or more than 90 degrees) have an unsettling effect on the mind unless they are recognized as such—whereupon they can be empowering and energizing.
The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.