A Brief Essay on Literary Satanism
by Don Webb


"I knew him .. His great heart was big with all the virtues born of pride; frankness, courage, constancy in trial, indomitable hope. Long, long ago ere time was, in the boreal sky where gleam the seven magnetic stars, he dwelt in a place of diamond and gold . . . ."

Anatole France from The Revolt of the Angels

Satan has always had a great literary following. From Twain to Nabokov, Bierce to Milton he casts a titanic shadow as the archetype the rebel against cosmic injustice. Satan came into his own with the coming of the Renaissance. Thomas Nashe, the inventor of the English novel, was the first to pay sympathy to the devil in his Pierce Penilesse his supplication to the divell (1592), but the English speaking world came to really know the devil in Milton's Paradise Lost (1667). Milton, although a devout Christian was unable to keep Satan's struggle against infinite odds form being other than an heroic one. His picture of Satan who will not submit to God in the face of the tortures of Hell still stirs modern Satanists who understand god as a personification of the massed wills of others. Blake once said of Milton that he "was of the Devil's party without knowing it," because he wrote of freedom when he wrote of the devil and of limitations when he wrote of god."

Goethe's Faust (1808) provides us with the model of the modern hero doomed to freedom and the quest for knowledge and power. Faust sells his soul for knowledge and gold. If you ask the typical college student his or her motivations for attending college, you will find that Faust has many friends seeking knowledge and a good paying job. Faust's devil Mephistopheles (No Lover of Light) is the personification of the negativity that is required as part of the dynamic nature of self-becoming. Mephistopheles describes himself as "I am the portion of that power that always wants evil, and always causes good. I am the spirit which always negates."

In contrast to the heroic and classical devils above, we have Satan of Charles Baudelaire who took Poe's American darkness and transformed it as an idealized form of angst. Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil (1857) later opened the doors of darkness for such artists as Clark Ashton Smith, Kurt Seligman and Diamanda Galas. Much of today's "Goth" culture owes a great debt to Baudelaire's Satan.

One of the best modern masters was Anatole France, whose The Revolt of the Angeles 1914 is full of metaphysical mockery on the one hand and a portrayal of Satan as seeker of mysteries on the other. The image of Satan and his devils as seeking after the mysteries and and becoming the advisers of mankind is a crucial one for the Satanist of the late twentieth century. The use of Satan as way to lampoon organized religion is a major Satanic activity among LHPers today.

Obviously the rich tradtion of literary Satanism can scarcely be touched in so short an essay. For further reading see The Devil's Mischief By Ed Marquand 1996, The Devil in Legend and Literature by Maximilian Rudwin (latest reprint 1989 Open Court), Literature and Evil by Georges Bataille 1957, and The Devil's Race-Track: Mark Twain's Great Dark Writings 1966. The greatest quick introduction to Satanism remains Huck Finn's "Alright then, I'll go to hell" speech when he decides to protect Jim from the law. Look it up, it's good (?) for you.


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