My Satanic Adventure


I was a Teenaged Satanist!

(Version 2.3)

Copyright © 1975, 2005 c.e., Isaac Bonewits

The following was first published in 1975 c.e. in response to a number of vitriolic attacks against me by various Satanists. In 1992, I was once again the target of a Satanic poison pen campaign, caused by the publishing of my essay The Enemies of Our Enemies (which should be read in conjunction with this). In 1996, I decided to update this essay and to make it available once again to the Neopagan community. Now, it’s 2001, we’re on the Net, and I continue to get nasty mail from Satanists/Setanists, only now it’s obscene email!

By the way, for those who never caught the reference, this essay’s title was a take-off on a famous essay by Israel Regardie, calledMy Rosicrucian Adventure.”

In the city of Berkeley, California, there is a large T-shaped intersection at the main southern entrance to the campus of the University of California, where I enrolled as a sophomore in the fall of 1967, at the tender age of 17. Here, where Telegraph Avenue runs north into the east-west Bancroft Avenue, there is a large expanse of brick sidewalk between the traffic on Bancroft and the short cement pillars that mark the entry into the plaza between Sproul Hall (the administration building) and the Student Union. It was on those bricks that I spent many leisure hours heckling the preachers who held court there in the late 1960s.

On a small soapbox (yes, a real, genuine soapbox), “Holy” Hubert Lindsey, gap-toothed, flaming-haired and loud mouthed, would hold forth to the multitudes about how sinful they all were. Mr. and Mrs. Tieman, a middle aged couple, would hold up large white posters covered with alternating lines of red and black magic marker, that told us how sinful and evil we were, while they sang hymns over a small loudspeaker. Off to one corner, the Krishna Consciousness devotees would bang away at their drums and chant on and on and on. Various “Jesus Freaks” would wander around accosting students and subjecting them to impromptu sermons (all carefully memorized). Scientologists would hand out tracts and Marxists passed out picket signs. It was all marvelously exciting.

Naturally, the favorite sport of many Berkeley students was “Lets heckle the religion nuts!” As a new transfer student with an already strongly developed interest in magic and religion, I jumped right in with my fellows (almost all male) and started bugging the preachers. However, I noticed after a few months that our heckling had very little effect except our own diminishing amusement. The evangelists were immune to all the standard methods of heckling — the catcalls and philosophical paradoxes rolled off them like water off a ducks back. The evangelical, gospel-spouting approach seemed impervious to all logic and reason. It was in my third quarter at Cal that inspiration hit me.

On a beautiful Spring afternoon in March 1968, I arrived at the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph with a small platform, painted black, a small loudspeaker, also painted black and a piece of black posterboard with alternating lines of red and white lettering. The top line on my sign said “The Devils Advocate.” It is impossible to adequately describe the horror and dismay of the preachers as I stood up on my platform, dressed all in black, and began a loud, long, sonorous sermon in my best southern accent — on behalf of the Christian Devil.

What I was preaching that afternoon was what I have since come to call “Liberal Heterodox” Satanism. I preached the Devil as Lucifer, the “Light Bearer,” champion of the intellect against repressive tyrannies on the one hand, and the original “party animal” on the other — sort of a combination of Prometheus, Bacchus and Pan. I had a “Hell” of a good time flaying my audiences for not being sinful enough, and for listening to the preachers. Inside of five minutes there was an audience around my platform larger than any of the evangelists had every raised. Some of them pretended to “heckle” me (and a few Jesus People actually did), but all their arguments were swept aside by classic preacher-think.

That day, and for many days thereafter, I practiced the art of improvisational street theater, using all the standard evangelical lines and parables to ridicule and confuse the preachers. I had been at my platform less than a week when a young woman came up to me and said, in a deliberately erotic voice, “Hi. Im a Witch. Would you like to join the Church of Satan? You sound like youd be perfect.”

Since she was rather pretty I quickly replied, “Hi. Whats the Church of Satan?”

Its the famous Satanic Church run by Anton LaVey in San Francisco,” she explained.

Never heard of him,” I replied brightly.

Well, youll like him. Hes into just the same things you are. Why dont you go see him?” she said, handing me a card with his address and giving me a smoldering look that promised much.

So I went to see him. His hokey black house with the gothic furnishings has been described so many times by reporters that I wont bother. Suffice it to say that I met the man and liked him very much. He was friendly, smooth talking, played the organ beautifully, and promised me much assistance in my endeavors to torment the campus evangelists. I was invited to join the Church, membership fees were waived, and I was invited to attend his lecture series for free! (The waiving of those fees, as well as those for the weekly meetings, I learned later was almost unheard of.) He handed me a bunch of literature from his Church to hand out and I went back to Berkeley bemused and intrigued by what I was getting into.

Well, three months went by. One of the members of the Church made me a more powerful loudspeaker and thousands of LaVeys tracts were printed up and handed out. I eventually built a large black throne on wheels, with a tape recorder, microphone and umbrella holder to keep the sun off my head. I called this my “Sinmobile,” and wheeled it across campus every day to the evangelical corner, so that I could preach in comfort. In short, I really had a lot of fun that spring.

During this time, I became a regular at the Church of Satan. I attended LaVeys lectures, went to his Friday night rituals, and quickly became one of his regular altar boys and a “Satanic Minister.” Ill never forget the evening when I decided to ad lib some fake “Enochian” invocations during one of the ceremonies. I dramatically intoned a lot of gibberish, using the same guttural tones that Anton always used, and everyone in the ritual acted very impressed. Afterwards, I asked Anton, “Howd you like my Enochian?” and he gave me a look that would have melted sheetrock. He did not, however, warn me of the dangers of mucking with this ceremonial language, as any real Enochian magician would have done out of sheer self-preservation (since they all believe that it is a terribly powerful magical tongue), nor did he complain that I had ruined his magical intent, as he would have done if he had actually been doing any magic. It was at that point that I realized two important things about Anton: he really didnt know very much about Enochian and he wasnt actually trying to do magic in his supposedly magical rites. I began to wonder if he even knew how.

But I continued to hang out at the Church, discussing magic, philosophy and Satanic theology with Anton and the other members and trying (unsuccessfully) to seduce some of the rare young women in the Church. Occasionally I would even flirt with Antons teenaged daughter — which really flipped him out, despite the fact that she wouldnt give me the time of day. I never was able to figure out whether he was jealous, worried about protecting her virtue, or concerned that my “commie” attitudes might be contagious.

At one point that spring, some friends of Antons showed up with cameras and started filming bits and pieces of faked-up rituals. Since I was still an enthusiastic ritualist, I was drafted to play various silly parts in these. I climbed into a coffin with a naked woman while wearing a bishops costume, stabbed a poppet with a knife, asked the high priest (Anton, in his Red Devil costume) for Satanic blessings, etc. I cant remember any of the dialog at this point, but I do recall Anton telling us that what we said didnt matter much, since everything was going to be translated into European languages for the “documentaries” the men were making.

Well, he was telling some of the truth for once. Parts of these films did indeed wind up in documentaries, such as “The Occult Experience,” but those parts were in English. These are the films that people in the Neopagan community see every couple of years or so, and which shock them so much — apparently they cant see that Im only seventeen in them, so they write me letters full of concern or denouncing me for my “betrayal” of Paganism. The foreign translations, however, were done for the bits that were spliced into pornographic movies sold in Europe. His so-called documentary film producers were actually pornographers, though the films I acted in were pretty tame. I dont know about the “acting” other Church members might have done then or since, though Im told that LaVey later earned his living for a few years in the European pornography industry.

To me it was all just another part of the adventure. I continued to listen admiringly to Antons tales, though I was somewhat shocked when he claimed that his huge library of occult books had been swindled from rich widows. I was more shocked when I realized that he had read only a tiny fraction of them, and that at seventeen I had read far more books on parapsychology, comparative religion and the occult than he had, despite his twenty years head start.

These events and insights did not take place in isolation, though. Like many other Berkeley students, I was gradually becoming a long-haired radical. This caused increasing friction between the rest of the Church and myself. My politics then were basically left wing/anarchist with a mild dash of Nietzsche. Antons politics, and those of most of the central members, seemed to be quite a bit more conservative. Theyd quote Nietzsche or Hitler or Rand and tell me what it supposedly meant. Then Id give them what I thought of as a more humanistic and intellectual interpretation. The overlap between our opinions became increasingly smaller and I became increasingly uneasy about my fellow Church members.

Some were bringing authentic Ku Klux Klan robes and Nazi uniforms for the ceremonies. I was assured that the clothes were merely for “Satanic shock value” to “jar people from their usual staid patterns of thinking.” Then I would talk to the men wearing these clothes and realize that they were not pretending anything. I noticed that there were no black members of the Church and only one Asian, and began to ask why.

Then I went away for the summer, living with my eldest brother in southern California and converting him to my brand of Satanism. Since he was an intellectual humanist, this wasnt hard (he became Wiccan a couple of years later). We had an enjoyable summer, I made a few public appearances on behalf of the Church, then it was time to return to Berkeley.

Upon my return, I found that several of the members of the Church were coming to me for magical advice, instead of to their Glorious Leader. This was apparently the final straw for Anton. It was early in October, shortly after my 18th birthday, that I was called aside for a talk by one of the “Inner Circle” members (one of the pornographers), about my “obnoxious and deviationist tendencies.” I had previously been told about “odd” accidents and arrests that had occurred to others who were purged from the Church, so I tried to be as conciliatory as possible. But crewcut right wingers never have brought out the best in me, so I probably wasnt very convincing. A week later, after the services, I was ordered to go downstairs to the “orgy room.”

When I arrived in the sanctum unsanctorium, I found thirteen people in black hooded robes sitting around a coffin-table. I was told to stand with my heels against the side of a mattress that was on the floor, with my head directly under a strong light. They then began to berate me for my deviationist thinking. The whole inquisition would have been a lot more impressive except for two factors: firstly, I recognized most of the voices as being those of the same flakes, weirdos and losers I had been meeting all along as members of the headquarters crew. Secondly, I had just finished reading a book on brainwashing techniques — the same methods that were now being used on me to force a “confession and retraction” of my “erroneous ways.” My immediate impulse to laugh was stifled, however, by the fact that I was surrounded and out-numbered by several large men, whose voices were getting increasingly loud and fanatic, and my memories of the supposed Mafia and police connections Anton had.

The smart thing to do was convince them that I was small fry and not worth arranging a fatal accident for. I proceeded to faint back on the mattress. Ignoring the fact that I had repeatedly informed them of my activities as a drama club member in high school, they all laughed and hauled me upstairs. Five minutes later I “revived” and left in a very subdued mood.

A couple of weeks later I sent Anton a suitably wimpy resignation letter, offering to refrain from all public comment about the Church and to return the public address system to the man who had provided it to me (something that never happened, though I waited two years, because members had been forbidden to communicate with me — although several later did).

I went back to my previous ways, continuing for two more years the fascinating game of evangelist-baiting. Several other religious and magical groups recruited me and then kicked me out for heresy. Gradually, I became used to the idea that there were damned few groups around who wanted independent thinkers, and that most of the organizations I infiltrated or joined (from even before I came to Berkeley) were likely to kick me out the second I started deviating from their party line. Fortunately, I discovered the Reformed Druids of North America shortly after being purged from LaVeys Church, and those tree-hugging Zen anarchists were just what the Goddess ordered. Ive been a Druid and a Pagan ever since.

Im still amused more than angered by the cyclical attacks against me in the Pagan press and now on the Net. Im not sure that my foolishness as a teenager is particularly relevant to my present character, opinions and activities, any more than the foolishness of many other famous Pagans during their adolescence. Shall we all investigate what Starhawk, Selena Fox, Ray Buckland, Oberon and Morning Glory Zell were doing when they were seventeen? For that matter, what were LaVey, Aquino, and Flowers/Thorsson doing during their teenaged years? (Pagan computer hackers take note, this could be an entertaining research project.)

Im perfectly happy now, as I was then, to admit that I was stupid to get involved with LaVey and his Church, and even more stupid to reveal my precocious knowledge of the occult and to advise members of the group behind the gurus back.

Yet any magically- or mystically-oriented person must be willing to accept that if they experiment or engage in adventures, they are liable to be made a fool of, be ripped-off or have their reputation smeared by those who belong to or sympathize with the Power Elite. I was curious about LaVey and his group and let them recruit me. I find it difficult to be sorry, although LaVey expected me to be, that no new members were brought into the ranks by my efforts — after all, my chief aim had been to torment and fight evangelists and fascists, not to help them.

I said back in 1974 that people desperate to smear me would inevitably bring up those months with LaVey, for lack of anything better to use, and that prophesy has come true several times. The (re-)publishing of The Enemies of our Enemies, however, brings them out of the woodwork every time. Michael Aquino, the neo-nazi head of the Temple of Set, has been especially active in spreading carefully crafted lies (hes a career military intelligence officer, after all) about my time with LaVey. His professionally written disinformation is precisely targeted to make feminists, civil libertarians and Neopagans disgusted with me, especially if they are unfamiliar with propaganda techniques. Various other Satanic crackpots, some of whom were denouncing me many years ago, join in with equally ludicrous accusations and sophomoric insults.

The primary claim these folks are making (other than the traditional one most my critics use: “Isaac is a terrible person, dont listen to him”) is that every one of my opinions about past and current Satanism has supposedly been warped by my “bitter experience” with the Church of Satan when I was seventeen. To this very day, I am supposed to be horribly ashamed of having been purged by them, and using any excuse to attack these innocent philosophers. All of which ignores some glaringly obvious facts.

(1) Ive been kicked out of lots of occult groups over the years. I havent spent much of my time denouncing entire theological movements related to them, because most of them werent very representative. Anton, however, along with Montague Summers and Adolph Hitler, was a seminal figure in the modern Satanic movement, as even his enemies and competitors (such as Aquino) cheerfully admit. So LaVey provides one excellent example of just how shallow, patriarchal and fraudulent Satanism is.

(2) As Ive said before, you cant be in the occult community for six months, let alone thirty years, without meeting a wide spectrum of Satanists, Setians, Luciferians, Gnostic Dualists, Chthulians, and other proud upholders of the so-called “Left Hand Path.” Ive met scores of Satanists, “black magicians” and other idiots trying hard to impress me with how philosophical, evil, and/or dangerous they were. After a while, the shallowness of their thinking and the repetitiveness of their dysfunctional personalities becomes stunning in its cliche-ridden banality.

(3) Im a professional occultist and a scholar of minority belief systems. Ive read plenty of Satanic/Setian literature and found none of it plausible. Ive studied the historical record of how the Roman Catholic Church invented modern Satanism. Ive read the work of genuine authorities and found their academic analyses far more convincing than the self-serving clap-trap produced by folks trying to make big bucks out of conning the rubes.

My knowledge of Setanists and Setanism is observational, historical, philosophical, and extensive. Thus, my comments in “The Enemies of Our Enemies” that Satanists and their ilk tend to be “fascists, jerks and/or psychopaths” who dont care a fig for anyones civil liberties except their own, is accurate, historically sound, and rather mild.

Anyone who bothers to read the trash that LaVey writes (or rather that he puts his name on — he bragged to me about how he had gotten various members of the Church to write the different chapters of his first two books for him) will notice certain familiar attitudes permeating the contents. His version of Satanism, like the Christian mythology it is a part of, is racist and sexist. His right wing nonsense is part and parcel of the patriarchal worldview that Goddess worshippers and Neopagans abhor. If Adolf Hitler had decided to publicize his occult beliefs, they would have wound up sounding much like LaVeys (or Michael Aquinos) writings — though with dashes of libertarianism thrown in to make it sound oriented towards individuals.

The “philosophy of Satanism” is deliberately designed to appeal to the KKK or American Nazi Party type of mind: all those ignorant embittered failures who are convinced that “theres a conspiracy” to keep them from their rightful places as rulers of the world. Even the Satanists who consider themselves “pre-Christian Gnostic Dualists” still accept the same patriarchal worldview that lies(!) behind Christianity, dividing the universe into warring armies of Good and Evil.

Members of the Neopagan community have some fairly simple choices about how to react to disinformation campaigns against me: (1) They can read my writings on the topics of Satanism/Setianism, Neopaganism and civil liberties, and analyze my arguments to see if they make sense regardless of any biases I might or might not have. (2) They can decide that a man who has spent his entire adult life as a priest of the Earth Mother may be a more reliable source of information than people who glorify the Christian “Father of Lies,” and reject poison pen letters/newsgroup posts as self-serving Setanic propaganda. (3) They can decide to believe the worst possible stories about me because Im a pompous, cantankerous grouch and they would like to see me taken down a peg, regardless of whether the tales are true. (4) They can choose to ignore the whole controversy as requiring too much mental effort to bother with.

These last two choices may or may not lead to (5) cozying up to the Setanists, joining with them in legal and public relations work, helping to improve their public image and confirming mainstream fears that Satanists and Pagans really are the same after all — thus playing directly into the hands of the people who would like to imprison and/or kill us.

No matter what decisions the members of the community may make, I hope that they will respond in writing to the various Neopagan publications, newsgroups, and chatrooms in which the Setanists usually dominate this discussion. Defending or attacking Isaac Bonewits isnt anywhere near as important as creating a consensus among Pagans as to what relations — if any — we should have with Satanists and other fundamentalist Christians. That requires strong Pagan positions to be articulated, Pagan arguments to be carefully scrutinized in the light of Pagan polytheology, and Pagan hearts to be looked deeply into.

We dont let Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell dominate our internal community debates. We shouldnt let other Christian outsiders do so either.

Copyright © 1975, 2005 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number is retained, and everything in this notice box is included. If you would like to be on one or more of Isaac Bonewits’ emailing lists, click here to get subscription information.

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