“Your Satanism isn’t really about Satan, is it?” A Christian friend recently asked me this after reading my article On Creating a Personal Satanic Root Document. I’ve been thinking about his comment ever since.
There’s a sense in which my Satanism is very much about Satan. Otherwise, I wouldn’t call it Satanism. Identifying as a Satanist is so stigmatizing and inconvenient that it wouldn’t make sense for it not to be a deeply held religious identity, especially for a boring normie like me. My Satanism is specifically drawn from the heroic Satan of Milton, and the long literary tradition of valorizing Satan as the icon of liberation, the downtrodden, and imagination. I’ve fallen madly in love with the symbol of Satan (against my better judgement) and the symbol has infused my being, like a virus.
But on the other hand, there is a way in which my friend is right: My Satanism is about more that Satan.
I have long thought of the figure of Satan as less of a God and more of a guide. He is not an end in himself, but rather models a posture towards something bigger. He is a symbolic Virgil leading me into something far more vast than any singular, cultural narrative, and that Thing is what I like to call the Void.
I do not mean void in the sense of a vast emptiness. I rather mean it as a void of knowledge. I mean it as the smallness of the human mind to grasp the fullness and mystery of the cosmos.
For me, Satan rejects any nullifying and numbing narratives about the universe. He rejects unverified Gods and creation myths. He rejects frantic human attempts to impose a story onto the obscene, seething mystery of the world. Instead, he invites us into a space of radical nakedness before the unknowable.
When I think of the Void, I think of a few things before my mind starts to feel like it will collapse:
The Void is the incomprehensible hugeness of the universe. The Void is the fact that the majority of the universe is made up of Dark Matter, and we don’t have a clue what that is. The Void is coming face to face with the truth that we are a lonely race of conscious beings hurtling through space on a speck of dust, and we have no idea why. The Void is not knowing what happens after we die. The Void is confronting the mystery of consciousness. The Void is not knowing what is at the root of all things, or why anything exists at all. The Void is confronting more questions even as science reveals more answers. The Void is comprehending that I am, right now, 86 billion neurons singing a song.
The Void is as awesome and beautiful as it is terrifying. There are multiple stories in the Old Testament about people coming face-to-face with the collosal, awful power of God, and falling to their knees in pure bewilderment, wonder, and terror. If that is worship, then I, too, worship. I worship the Void.
Satan is my guide into the Void, because he teaches me to reject false narrative structures. He inspires me, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, to “Doubt with boldness.” He fills me with the courage to cast aside the false garments of petty, human stories and simply stand naked before the unknowable, blinding sun of the Void. It sounds strange to call “not knowing” a mystical experience, but I’m struggling to find any other word to describe it. I would even call it “religious.”
Paradoxically, I don’t think I would have the courage to practice this radical Not Knowing without a symbol, religion, and social structure to support me. I think I would be too frightened to come anywhere near the edge of that abyss. We are human beings, and we need symbols to help us contextualize and approach the most ferocious mysteries of life. For me, that symbol is Satan. For others, it might be something different. It might be the symbol of Jesus, who laid down his life in the face of imperial and social tyranny. It might the Buddha, or a character from a novel or video game. Other still might scoff at the idea of “needing” a religion to confront the universe, and declare that a weakness. I don’t care if it’s a weakness or not — I have a short time to live on this planet, and my Satanism helps me make the best of it.
So yes, my Satanism is about more than Satan. It’s about how to live in light of the vastness of the cosmos.