satanism today and tomorrow

The Fate of Modern Heretics



We who live in Western countries use to take our civil liberties for granted. The freedom of speech, meetings, and religion feels like a natural part of our life. This was what made possible for Anton LaVey to create the first legally operating Satanist organization in the world, and for his fellow Satanists in other democratic countries to express their views and beliefs more or less openly.

However, we should never forget that in our past, heretics were burned at the stake. If you think that it's long gone into history, you are hazardously wrong. It's just burning at stakes that's gone, since now we have guns, bombs and other more efficient means to kill undesired people. But the very practice of killing people for their heretical beliefs is still kept on today.

I'm going to talk about sects: not so much about their ideas and beliefs, as about the state's attitude towards them. It's not news that the state officials view us Satanists as one of the sects. Therefore, it's important for us to understand: why they treat different sects differently, and into which category of sects they put us.

I'm not intended to mention authoritarian and theocratical regimes here; everything about them is clear. All examples that I bring are taken from countries that have freedom of speech, meetings, and religion not merely on paper, but in practice. However, as we will see, this freedom does not really apply to any speech, any meetings, and any religion… Sometimes it's even amazing to see how a tiny group of believers in some weird stuff starts to be perceived as a critical threat to the very existence of the state. No wonder that in such a case, the state (even “free” and “democratic”) annihilates this group with any means and without a tiniest bit of respect to its laws and constitution.


“The People's Temple” of Jim Jones

Jim Jones was a preacher that proclaimed his quite unorthodox interpretations of Christianity since late 1950s. He tried several times to create an organization of his followers; the last and the largest of his organizations was “The People's Temple” that he founded in 1970 in San Francisco. The sects had close ties with some leftist and Afro-American movements of that time, and even with Leo Ryan, a member of the House of Representatives of the US Congress from the Democratic Party.

Jim Jones' ideas were often described as “Communist”, but in the USA of the 1970s this was just a swearword to label any non-mainstream ideas. However, Jim Jones stood out somehow among the others who were viewed as “Communists” by the American establishment. The property of “The People's Temple” became target of vandalism and arson. Some prominent persons from the sect were murdered. This was the reason for Jim Jones and most of his followers to move in 1977 to Guyane, where they founded their settlement, Jonestown.

In November 1978, all members of the sect in Guyane, together with Leo Ryan who came to visit them, were found dead. The official version says that Jim Jones and his followers killed Leo Ryan and then committed a mass suicide; they were just mad sectarians, no wonder… But if it's no wonder, why was the investigation of the death of 909 US citizens classified top secret?

Now the documents on the case of “The People's Temple” are declassified and published. We can see from these documents that the investigation was carried out with many violations. Only 7 corpses were taken to forensic examination, while the rest were recorded as suicides without it, and all bodies were immediately cremated afterwards. The lawyers were not allowed to see the case file. Finally, in the published declassified documents on the case, 25 of 28 names of the witnesses are blacked out by censorship. This means that 25 of 28 witnesses who testified the “mass suicide” in court were agents of secret services infiltrated into the sect.


The Ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was an Indian philosopher who sharply criticized the traditional Indian society and advocated freedom of love and sex, claiming that the free love would be the only way to get rid of the caste system and make people really equal. In 1974 he grounded the Ashram, an organization of his followers, in the city of Pune. The Ashram quickly became famous not just in India, but all over the world. Many people were traveling to Pune to listen to Rajneesh, and some of them stayed in the Ashram.

In 1981 Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh decided to create a new organization in the USA, since his teachings had gained much popularity among young Americans. He and his American followers purchased a large plot of land in Oregon and built their settlement there. It's no surprise that the local conservative activists did not like this and immediately started to fight against them. For some years, Rajneesh and his organization managed to defend against any attempts to legally ban their organization and their settlement. But in 1984 they were accused of terrorism, allegedly infecting salad in a restaurant with salmonella in order to kill a group of conservative voters and make their candidate elected into the local council… (In fact, 751 people got infected, 45 of them were hospitalized, but nobody died.)

This all sounds like a silly comedy or blood libel. It's hard to imagine that educated people at the end of the 20th century could believe in it — but they did. People are more stupid than they like to think about themselves. But what really surprises me is that even some Satanists believe in this junk. Whenever any discussion about Rajneesh and his ideas starts, somebody always mentions that he was a terrorist… Although this absurd accusation was never proved in court, and, after spending several months in jail, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was released and went back to India, mass media keep on telling this lie up to now.



“M.O.V.E.” was an organization founded in 1972 in Philadelphia by Vincent Leaphart, an Afro-American activist. Originally it was an anti-racist movement of American Blacks. By the end of 1970s it turned more towards spiritual ideas. The members of “M.O.V.E.” began to study the African Paganism and the Voodoo, started calling themselves with invented African names, and advocated a return to the African lifestyle, which they were thinking included eating raw meat...

Unfortunately, no more information has been possible for me to find about this organization. But, certainly, they had something outstanding, something crucially different from any other movement of Black Americans. It should have been something so much outstanding that on May 13th, 1985 the US government sent a bomber to bomb down the house in Philadelphia where the members of “M.O.V.E.” were having their gatherings. The authorities recognized the death of 11 people (including 5 children) as a result of the bombing. 60 more people were declared “missing”, but it's nowhere else for them to be missing than in the resulting fire. (The fire spread also to several neighboring houses; the people who lived there had nothing to do with “M.O.V.E.”)

What was the reason for such a real war against a tiny sect? As an explanation, the authoties accused “M.O.V.E.”: first, of threatening to commit terrorist attacks, and second, of throwing garbage in the street near the house. However, if you like, you can easily find threats of terrorist attacks in speeches of every second preacher (or not find if you don't like). And if the government ordered to bomb everybody who throws garbage in the street, some American cities would be completely destroyed… Anyway, only something extraordinary could be the reason for the American government to order bombing of an American city.


David Koresh's sect

Mass media used to associate the American preacher David Koresh with the sect “Branch Davidians”, but this is a distortion of facts. The “Branch Davidians” was founded in 1955 and still exists now. David Koresh and his followers split from the “Branch Davidians” in 1989 and formed their own sect, which based in a large house in Waco, TX.

What was the difference between the orthodoxal beliefs of the “Branch Davidians” and David Koresh's teachings, is not exactly known. Texas media claimed him to be producing and using drugs and having sex with underage kids.

Officially, David Koresh and his followers were accused only of violation of the procedures of storage and registration of firearms, and nothing more. Probably, the point was that drugs and pedophily were the responsibility of the police of Texas, while the issues with guns could be handed to the FBI and other federal agencies. It seems like the government of Texas wanted to stay clear from all dirty and unpopular actions and lay the responsibility for them onto the federals.

Koresh said that the police could come and check that the registration of his guns was in order, but they refused. Instead, the police, FBI and army units sieged the house where the sect based and on April 19th, 1993 took it by storm, using military helicopters and even gun-mounted armored vehicles. The authorities proclaimed that they wanted to arrest David Koresh and several other members of the sect. But in fact, all 76 people who were in that house in Waco, including 5 children, were killed.

Shortly before the storming, Koresh proposed to surrender under the condition that he would be allowed to speak on TV, but the authorities rejected. Seemingly, their plan from the beginning was to kill Koresh and his followers for “resisting the arrest” and under no circumstances let him tell his version of the case — neither in media, nor in court.


“Aum Shinrikyo”

The organization “Aum Shinrikyo” was founded by Shōkō Asahara in 1984 in Tokyo. In the beginning, it was a club for yoga and meditation. They registered as a religious organization in 1989; by then, “Aum Shinrikyo” had just 20 members. The sect grew quickly; by 1992 it accepted more than 20000 people in Japan only and opened its branches in some other countries.

In 1995, when the organization totaled about a million members, it was accused of terrorism. The official version claims that they produced weapons of mass destruction: biological (anthrax) and chemical (botulinum toxin, sarin, phosgene, and hydrogen cyanide). Also, they are claimed to have committed more than 20 terrorists attacks with the biological and chemical weapons, but all of them failed and nobody of the planned victims suffered. Finally, they were accused of a sarin attack in the Tokyo subway on March 20th, 1995, which led to the death of 12 people...

Americans used to tell jokes about selling the Brooklyn Bridge to fools. The Japanese authorities sell the official version of the “Aum Shinrikyo” case to the same customers.

First of all, anthrax is, to put it mildly, not easy to deal with. Dr. Kanatzhan Alibekov (who worked in the Soviet biological weapons program and disclosed some of its secrets after immigrating to the USA in 1991) says that working with anthrax is extremely dangerous, and that he knows many accidents in Soviet labs when researchers got infected with this fatal disease and died, although they knew of all the risks and used all kinds of protective equipment. The Japanese authorities want us to believe that amateurs were dealing with anthrax for years and managed to avoid infecting themselves and people around them, while the police and the secret services did not spot anything suspicious about all that.

Second, if terrorists are lacking skills so badly that all of their 20 attempts of attacks failed, it seems absolutely implausible that they never accidentally killed themselves and never were caught red-handed. (If, of course, they were real terrorists and not secret service agents fabricating evidence for a future trial.)

Third, the Tokyo subway incident looks more like a Hollywood movie with a happy end than a real terrorist attack. On Monday, in the peak of the morning rush hour, terrorists released one of the strongest chemical weapon agents (sarin) in 5 subway trains, — killing merely 12 people… Just a mass panic in the subway during rush hours could kill more. (For comparison: in the chemical attack in the Dubrovka theater in Moscow on October 26th, 2002, fentanyl was used, e.g. a way less toxic substance than sarin, — but that was enough to poison 116 people to death.)

What seems way more plausible is that the officers of the Japanese secret service who were ordered to fabricate a case against “Aum Shinrikyo” did not want to kill too many people and tried therefore to go with as few casualties as possible. This is why the official version came to be the way it is: just one successful terrorist attack with unbelievably few casualties and 20 failed attempts that happened before while the police and secret services were busy drinking coffee in their office. (When secret services really do such a bad job, they usually classify it top secret.) Peppered with horror stories about anthrax, this all discourages mass audience from asking unnecessary questions.

23 years have passed, and most people in Japan and in the world have already forgotten about “Aum Shinrikyo”. Then, in July 2018, Shōkō Asahara and 12 other leaders of the sect were hanged in Tokyo prison according to the sentence of 1995. In order to commit the execution, the Japanese authorities reintroduced the death penalty, which had been abolished in Japan since 2010…



Does it mean that any organization that advocates unorthodox views is doomed to the same fate? Definitely, no! I have intentionally chosen examples only from countries where the freedom of speech, meetings and religion is real in the vast majority of cases. Thousands of sects in the USA and hundreds in Japan act and propagandize their beliefs without any problems. No need to thoroughly look for examples: LaVey's “Church of Satan” is still alive and has not fallen victim of state terror.

The most interesting here is who and why falls into that tiny minority of cases when the authorities disregard any laws, fabricate any evidence, and use any available means in order to exterminate the heresy.

The question “Why” here appears to be especially difficult to answer, because we know very little about the beliefs of the sects that were exterminated by the state authorities, and even those tiny bits of information that are possible to find sound like propaganda and plain lies. For example: the only thing that you can find now about the views of Jim Jones is that he was a “Communist”. However, in the same time (1970s) the real Communist party of the USA was absolutely legal and did not face any persecution from the authorities. The “M.O.V.E.” organization seems to be still alive in some form, although their website does not update since 2010, and the ideas that are published there sound like mean Black supremacism in its dumbest form. Anyway, many other organizations with similar ideology are active in the USA, and nobody has been ever thinking about bombing down their headquarters. As for “Aum Shinrikyo”, they are supposed to be planning to exterminate all humans on Earth, which sounds strange as well: either the idea to kill everybody is so tempting that it attracted almost one million followers, or Shōkō Asahara was really teaching something completely different that used to make people happy by some authority-questioning way.

However, in our informational age, the lack of any information is a piece of information by itself. We can conclude that the state authorities wanted to kill the people from the sects not so much as to kill their ideas. This is why nearly nothing is known about these ideas by now. Bhagwan Rajneesh was lucky in this regard: he had already published his ideas in the books before he faced persecution in the USA. Maybe it saved his life, since the American authorities realized that his death under those circumstances would only attract more interest to his ideas.

Let's try to find the answer from the contrary, e.g. by looking at the kinds of sects that the authorities not merely allow, but actively encourage:
1) Any organizations that aim to make a person fit into the society to the maximum extent, such as “Scientology” in the USA or “Okada” sect in Japan. All kinds of coaching for career success fall also into this category.
2) Organizations that don't pretend to be anything more than just a hobby club. It's OK for the authorities if you practice Yoga (or even Tantra) after work, as long as you still go to your work on the next day.
3) Reactionary sects that view the modern society as sinful and isolate themselves from it due to this very reason (for example, the Amish). I.e. even building an alternative society on the state territory is allowed as long as this society is planned to be Medieval.
4) Obviously comic organizations, like the Spaghetti Monster cult. Parodying a religion is OK as long as it's nothing more than a joke.
5) Christianity in disguise, e.g. cults that worship some other deities than the Christian god, but proclaim virtually the same Christian morality on behalf of these deities. Examples are Wicca, Channeling, any many others.

It's now clear that just the one and only thing is strongly discouraged with all available means, including bombs and poison gasses: to build an alternative society that provides more freedom for its members than the state they live in.

For Satanists, there are good and bad news in this. The good news is that the authorities still has not declared a total witch hunt on us, although they definitely could. The bad news is that they have not done it just because they don't view us as a serious threat. From their viewpoint, the eaters of raw meat from “M.O.V.E.” are a much greater danger than us.

Anton LaVey is often criticized for bringing too many elements of show into Satanism. However, if we think about the fate of “The People's Temple”, “M.O.V.E.” or David Koresh's sect, — it looks like a pretty smart move of him. First of all, it was necessary to achieve a legal status for Satanists in any form, and LaVey succeeded in this. And today's critics of LaVey, who has not done anything worth noticing for the Satanic movement, should rather pay more attention to LaVey's views: what he viewed as the essentials of Satanism, and what was merely tactical decisions in the situation of the 1960s America.

Anyway, Anton LaVey managed to do more than anybody else could do for Satanism. Now it's time to make a next step on the way that LaVey cut for us. For this step to lead us forward, we need to learn not just from LaVey's success, but also from the mistakes made by those who wanted to go their own way as well, but found a tragical end on that way.