Satanist and pseudosatanist groups

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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There are only two long-standing, well-established groups of satamsts and each is largely the creation of one man. The Church of Satan and the Temple of Set were founded 30 and 20 years ago respectively. The founder of the Church of Satan died only m October 1997 and the founder of the Temple of Set is still its leader. Both men have been public figures in California, although they should probably be described as notorious rather than famous for their activities, since their publicity has been, probably intentionally in the case of the Church of Satan, the cause of public scandal. These founders have published a good deal of material from which the observer can learn about the two organizations' ideas and rituals, but there have been no recent estimates of their membership, whether by themselves or observers. Their active membership, however, is probably a good deal smaller than the numbers who buy their magazines or show a short-term interest. Both organizations have an international membership but it is not clear whether all the groups outside the USA are affiliated to the original organizations, have been founded with their agreement as independent off-shoots, or are simply imitations.

Another organization that has been called satanist no longer survives, although dissident sections of it continued to exist for some time as different types of organization under other names; one for example is an independent branch ofjews for Jesus-(Bambridge, 1991:301). The Process Church of the Final Judgement was once well known, pardy because for a penod its members wore dramatic costumes in their public activities and also because their leader met Charles Manson, the murderer of the fdm actress Sharon Tate, while Manson was m prison. There have been persistent attempts, despite contrary evidence, to argue that Manson was a member of the Process and that the killings he perpetrated were ritual murders. More is also known about this group than about most satanist groups because it was studied in depth by the sociologist William Bain-bridge, who published a detailed history and analysis of the Church and its activities. Since by this time it had already collapsed, his study covers the whole course of its foundation, development and decline (Bambridge, 1978).

The founders of the Process had been members of the Scientology Movement, and it has been alleged that L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of

Scientology, spent some time as a member of the Church of Satan. This is one example of the links between the various groups in the world of new religious movements. Satamsts wnte for each others' publications, review each others' books and publish interviews with each other m magazines; theirs is a small world. The Process differed from the other two groups mentioned above in that it was founded m England and its core members were English, although its development as a religious movement and its final disintegration took place in the USA. In its heyday, the Process revered four gods, two of which were Lucifer and Satan. It was therefore nominally satamst, but not exclusively so, because Satan was considered the equal of the other three, who included Jehovah and Jesus. When the movement began, only the first three were considered gods; Jesus was added at a later stage. Even at its height The Process never had more than a few hundred members and, despite periodic rumours to the contrary, it has never been revived.

In addition, there are other much smaller groups in many countnes, with a handful of members, that are self-styled satamst organizations, although none has become well known or reached beyond its particular locality within one nation state. Like the larger groups they are explicidy anti-Chnstian and many are modelled on the Church of Satan, but they vary m the extent to which they consciously attempt to embody folk images of satamsin. There has been litde systematic research on them even in Bntain and the USA (though for exceptions see the bibliography) and where there is press coverage it is liable to be sensationalist. The revolution in publishing technology has made it possible for even tiny groups to publish their own magazines, which may give a false impression of their size, but these give some indication of the general spread of satamsm as a movement. In one of its issues, The Black Flame, the Church of Satan's magazine published in New York, reviewed 25 American magazines, two each from Sweden, Canada and New Zealand (though the last two have the same address) and one each from Finland, Norway, Scodand and France (1994, vol 5, nos 1 and 2). Translations of The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan (see below), are another indication of international interest; there are translations into Danish, Swedish and Spanish. The Satanic Bible and its companion The Satanic Rituals were published m 1969 and 1972, respectively, and were still m print in 1997, which indicates their status as foundation texts for the whole movement as well as for the Church of Satan.

Groups which aim to revive the pagan religion of north-west Europe, variously referred to as Heathens, Odinists or as the Norse or Anglo-Saxonic tradition may be mistaken for satamsts as their clothing and general appearance as well as their anti-Chnstian stance encourages this. They are probably more numerous than satamsts in Scandinavia and

Germany and seem to be growing m importance in Britain. As it is important to clarify their position, they will also be discussed m the section below.

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