On Solitary Satanism

I’m intensely social in the Satanic community, mostly online. I have an active Discord server, I regularly interview members of the Satanic Temple community, and I serve on Ordination Council for Satanic Ministry. I do a lot of very social Sataning.

As someone who’s been burned again and again by religious community, this does cause some anxiety. There is trepidation in giving my heart over to fellow fallible, neurotic, and disorganized human beings. It’s inevitable that someone within the Satanic community will leave me feeling deeply wounded, and I will have to confront the difficult emotional challenge of navigating how much of that hurt has to do with Satanism itself or just specific individuals within Satanism.

As I’ve reflected on this dynamic I’ve come to realize that a paradox lies at the heart of my Satanism: I’m able to engage publicly in Satanism because, at its most fundamental root, my Satanism is solitary.

In his book Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Jaron Lanier beseeches us to be cats: solitary, mysterious, and set apart. Certainly, cats can be intensely social and interactive creatures, but one never shakes the feeling around cats that they are fierce individuals and not at all codependent. I can’t help but feel that my religion is fundamentally cat-like: it drives me into solitude. I am most intensely aware of my Satanism not when I am engaging with other Satanists, but when I am in the solitude of writing, meditating,  hiking an Appalachian trail, deep in a book, or in solitary ritual.

(Because I find online rationality pedants so annoying, I have to make one thing clear: this doesn’t mean that I see myself above social pressure, bias, or delusion. My solitary religion does not, by default, mean that I can think clearly. I am as biased and glitchy as any other human mind. I revere rationality not because I see myself as So Very Big Brained Rational, but because I see myself and the rest of humanity as fundamentally irrational and rationality as a deeply unnatural and challenging state.)

My Satanism feels most present — I feel most fully Satanic — when I am alone with my thoughts, in the secret spaces where it’s just me interacting with myself.

This dynamic of interacting with oneself in solitude was highlighted beutifully in a recent article by Mihaela Czobor-Lupp:

Difference and otherness are intrinsic to the I, in the form of the dialogue I have with myself, where I became my own partner of conversation and the witness of my acts. Only those who know how to speak with themselves know how to speak with others. And only those who know how to speak with others who do not share their world assumptions and views know how to think, that is, know how to speak with themselves, in their solitude. In short, only those who do not stifle difference and plurality, but keep it present in both their mind and their social and political existence really know how to live. Or, to put it differently, they avoid the death that comes from becoming prisoners of one idea, one truth, in short of a dogma.

To me, Satan is the icon of the outsider: the ultimate cat. My Satan is the figure who sits outside the crowds and converses with himself so that he can better converse with the world. My Satan is the scholar and scientist, relentlessly pursuing truth and pushing back delusion. My Satan is the voice of the outsider, always willing to raise the voices of other outsiders. My Satan is the god of solitude: the God of inner and outer wilderness and untamed places.

Despite my rocky history with religion, I feel like I am able to interact with religious community because my Satanism is fundamentally mine and no one else’s. It is my own, and only I can experience it. As a nontheist I don’t believe there is an objective Satan out there in the universe, but I think this makes me more honest about my religion: no one else can have my Satan. The history of theistic religion is fraught with individuals trying to reconcile their different gods made in their own images, but we have no need for such turmoil. We can embrace the paradoxical solitude of religious life — a solitude that empowers us to be more connected, antifragile, and vibrant within community.

But that’s just me. What do you think? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. If your comment is excellent, I might feature it in my monthly Best Comments series. And by the way, most discussion of my posts takes place on my discord server, and I invite you to join in the conversation there. You can also become a patron and ensure that I bring you interesting content every single week, forever.

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