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Artist Richard Westall’s heroic Satan, 1794.

Satan’s Honor Roll

Don’t believe what you’ve heard — there is a powerful set of ethics on the Left Hand Path

A woman wrote me recently saying that she had dedicated herself to the veneration of Satan and the study of Satanic principles, sometimes called the Left Hand Path. Her husband was bewildered and unaccepting. How, she wondered, could she communicate to him the validity of her choice?

Satanism is the most misunderstood term not only in modern life, but in history. It has grown associated with evil, violence, and maleficence. As I’ve explored elsewhere, this longstanding judgment is a mistake — it is a historical, religious, and ethical shibboleth that grows out of a deeply conformist and habitually reinforced reading of humanity’s founding myths in the West, particularly the ambiguous and intriguing encounter between Eve and the Serpent (devil or emancipator?) in the garden.

I will not use this essay to repeat themes I’ve recently covered elsewhere — for my take on the history, aesthetics, and higher meaning of the Satanic, you can visit my pieces Good, Clean Satanism; The Devil’s Reading List; and Satanism, Seriously. The purpose of this piece, rather, is to address the conflict experienced by my friend above. Her husband suspected that she had committed to a path of evil and even cruelty. Your friends, workmates, neighbors, and relatives may falsely believe the same of you if you are “out” as a Satanist or devotee of the Left Hand Path. (The Left Hand Path doesn’t necessarily mean Satanism but a spiritual or ethical path defined by “my will be done” versus “Thy will be done.”) Other observers may cling to the destructive fictions about Satanists that emerged from the discredited “Satanic abuse” scandals of the 1980s. And you may, at times, even ask yourself: Have I chosen a path with a heart?

The answer to that question is yes. Satanism, in its varied expressions, possesses an ethical code that resonates from within its literature throughout history from Genesis to Paradise Lost to the Romantic poets’ and protofeminists’ rediscovery of the God of the Outsiders as an emancipator, nonconformist, and creative malcontent. Here are The Satanic Principles:

Loyalty

Sincerity

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Steve Ditko’s ethical hero, Mr. A

Aesthetic Integrity

Accountability

Then unknown dangers and as hard escape.
But I should ill become this Throne, O Peers,
And this Imperial Sov’ranty, adorn’d
With splendor, arm’d with power, if aught propos’d
And judg’d of public moment, in the shape
Of difficulty or danger could deterr
Mee from attempting. Wherefore do I assume
These Royalties, and not refuse to Reign,
Refusing to accept as great a share
Of hazard as of honour, due alike
To him who Reigns, and so much to him due
Of hazard more, as he above the rest
High honourd sits?

Reliability

Honor

Directness

Trust

Valor

Foresight

***

So, there — now you don’t need to kick someone out of your summer share because she’s a Satanist. You don’t need to lock up your possessions at night because your officemate worships Belial. And you certainly do not need to change babysitters because your current one wears the horns-up pentagram. Mainstream religionists, simply by associating with a certain doctrine or faith, sometimes feel entitled to the benefit of the doubt. By contrast, those who bear the label of Satan tend to regard ethics more seriously. This is because Satanists must always struggle to defend their personhood and rightness of expression. It is indeed a struggle — and that’s the point. Struggle is the creative act.

Finally, you might wonder, why is this list of ethics associated with the Left Hand Path at all? Can’t you find them in other traditions, such as Stoicism? There is always overlap among traditions of truth. It could be no other way. But these traits in their aggregate are particular to the authentic counter-tradition of Satanism because they reinforce what is at the heart of that path: the upbuilding and honoring of individual power, agency, and artistry. That is the gospel and purpose of the Satanic, when it is truly known and understood.

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