Aesthete Luisa Casati in Paris, circa early 1920s.

Satanism: The Dark Alternative

One question may change everything for you

Mitch Horowitz
30 min readJan 4, 2020

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(This article is adapted from the author’s 2018 lecture of the same name.)

I am grateful to my hosts tonight because I can assure you there are places and venues that did not want to host a talk called Satanism: The Dark Alternative. I also had people who urged me to change the title, to soften it. And my response was no, because I want to be blunt about what we’re exploring — which is historical, spiritual, and philosophical Satanism as a practical path.

I must be clear that when I use the term Satanism I’m not using it as a metaphor for the shadow or for something indirect. I’m speaking about the veneration and worship, ethically and spiritually, of the figure historically known as Satan or Lucifer. This figure appears in many myths throughout the Western and Eastern world under different names. But we in the West often use the Hebrew-derived name Satan, or adversary, or the Latin-derived term Lucifer, or light bringer. I must add that I do not make a distinction between those two entities, Satan and Lucifer. I’m aware that some people do, and I have friends in certain magical and esoteric orders to whom it’s important to use the term Lucifer, which they see as a more productive framing. I respect that entirely, but I don’t find it a philosophical necessity. I don’t think one needs to apologize for using those terms.

But one does need to be clear. I’ve offered you a definition that is plain: when I use the term Satanism I am talking about veneration of Satan — but what is Satan? That’s the key rub. That’s what causes the friction. That’s what causes controversy. The question, what is Satan?, is the crux of what we’re going to consider. Because it is my contention that that our definitions of the Satanic and of the Luciferian in the West are completely insufficient.

There is an esoteric history behind the Satanic, which I think the mainstream culture has failed to appreciate. Very often when people say that Satanism is synonymous with evil or violence or destruction or cruelty or lies, my first question is, where are those premises from? Are you drawing that from entertainment, because there are lots of movies like The Exorcist and so on which have value, but those things are entertainment. They’re…

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Mitch Horowitz

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China