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Occultism/Satanism and the Christian Faith - Johannes Aagaard

Satanism is the "Opposite".

That there are examples of occult and satanic behavior none of us can doubt any more. One could hardly think up a form of violence and terror which do not appear in Satanic form and language. Children sacrifice and cannibalism are extreme and abominable expressions of this.

However, there is a debate going on both the quantity and the quality, i.e. the number and the nature of the phenomena. Especially in the USA the debate is at an advanced stage, as Occultism and Satanism seem to be most pronounced there, and it may seem reasonable to describe the basic problems of understanding this phenomenon by means of material from the USA.

As mentioned above, no one can deny that Satanic rituals take place containing perverse and disgusting phenomena. But this has always taken place. Perverse and abominable people have always existed. We have the police to apprehend them and the judicial system and the psychiatric departments to handle them.

What's new - if it's new - what is challenging about it, anyways, is that these perversions appear with explicit Satanic-religious characteristics as an expression of an anti-Christian cult.

Now it lies in the very concept of Satanism that it is about something anti-Christian, for the word Satan is a name which indicates "the opponent", and in a religious context that means the opponent of God. However, there are one or more Satan figures in most., maybe in all religions, because evil as a threatening and terrible power has always taken a human shape to man, but also the shape of animals and often a shape that is partly animal and partly human.

Within Christianity there are several names for the same Satan and they are all important and revealing, The term Devil derives from the latin "diabolus" which means the seducer, and Fanden (not found in English) comes from the Frisian "fannen" which has to do with temptation, Lucifer means the carrier of light and then again is connected with temptation. But behind all these names, Satan, Devil, Fanden, and Lucifer lies the fact that they are about the opposite which gets its content from that which it is opposed to. i.e. from God.

Satan is therefore not an independent reality but is a contradiction and an opposition to God. Satan is the nothing in himself. There is no satanic power which is powerful in itself. Satanic power is an abuse of God's power. Luther puts this very. drastically as he states that, when the murderer stabs his knife into the innocent victim, that happened through God's power, for Satan has no power himself. But God's power is used in a perverse way, i.e. opposite, distorted, evil.

Theologically, it is very important to stress that God does not stand in front of Satan as one power facing another, This kind of dualism splits reality in two and that is not Christianity's attitude. It is the attitude of other religions, but not of the Christian Church. There is only one power in the world, but there is an anti-power which abuses the one power. That is Satanism. It is an actual personal evil whose nature is incomprehensible, as it does not have an existence being of its own, but can only be understood as opposed to God. This implies that anyone who attempts to understand Satanism directly gets into trouble. It is only possible to understand Satan as an opposition to God.

1. Some Partial Models of Explanation

But before doing so we shall take a look at the debate raging at present. First and foremost it does rage and it enrages people. Because it is a question of quite elementary things which touch people on the raw. Let's have a look at some ambiguous points of view, disregarding that most people have very mixed and confused points of view.

1. Some sociologists would claim that Satanism is an expression of profound anger, especially among young people who have been turned down by society and now turn against it. Some of them would say that Satanism  has nothing to do with Satan and thus nothing to do with God. It is a social phenomenon.

They may be right but only as a partial point of view. There is a socially conditioned anger in part of Satanism. This kind of Satanism is often related to drugs and alcohol and nicotine. It is destructive as well as self-destructive. Very often it is sado-masochistic as well. and it is worth while noticing that sado-masochism has characteristics which may turn into a popular movement!

But this is only part of the explanation. For many practitioners of Satanism are most normal citizens who certainly have not been lost by society and certainly are neither young nor outcast, from a social point of view. These supporters of society meet in their satanic lodges and do not hold back from anything at all. The sociological explanation must be taken seriously, but one shall not allow oneself to he impressed by it as if it explained everything. In fact it is more liable to explain away than to explain.

2. Some psychologists and psychiatrists attempt to understand Satanism as one or more mental - most often psychotic - illnesses which cause humans to develop several personalities in one body. Such humans may alter personality from one minute to the next. They do not have just one definite identity. It may start with games or acting, but the game gets serious and they are taken to where, maybe, they did not want to go but in fact did go. Maybe they react to disturbances of their (sexual) instincts which they do not know themselves and are appealed by.

The satanic rituals, therefore, are used as an excuse of and a cover for the perverse personality which they have to live out but cannot live out in their own names. In this way Satan's name becomes a legitimizing factor.

No doubt this is a correct partial explanation, but it does not give us a full and satisfactory explanation, it does not correspond to the experiences available at present. There is more than illness involved here, unless you extend the definition of illness to include religious illnesses which, of course, one could easily do and might even ought to. In this case the third model of understanding is of another dimension than the two first models.

2. Religious Models

The third model of explanation presupposes a religious reality which is more than the sum of all the other models of explanation (sociological, psychological, psychiatric, etc.).

This is the model of explanation which the author of this paper is occupied with as a student of theology. It will therefore be described in more detail.

This description continues that which has already been said on Satanism as the "opposite", i.e. the understanding of Satanism which acknowledges that Satanism cannot be understood directly but only indirectly.

But therefore this can be further illuminated, we have to look at the basics within the possibilities of knowledge in this field...

3. Visualization And Reality

On the cover of a random new religious book ("Lær at spille livets spil" - Learn how to Play the Game of Life - by Florence Scovel-Shinn, Sphinx 1987) it says (in my translation from the Danish edition):

Creative visualization is an important part of the game. What one is able to visualize will become reality in one's outer environment sooner or later.

We know that numbers of people adopt this understanding of reality. It corresponds with their experiences, whether they understand this experience rationally or not.

In a universe like that reality is in the making, not complete and fixed. Man himself takes part in the creation of reality.

This view is an important part of the religious experience. It is found in several very different versions but also in a Christian version. The word which creates what it names... is a basic Christian concept of reality. Prayer as a means to change reality cannot be excluded from the Christian faith without turning it into an inessential philosophy.

The students of Satanism who are content with partial explanations (be it the sociological, the psychological, or the psychiatric partial explanations) we consider reductionists. Because they reduce reality through their partial explanations and pick out a part of it to re present the whole.

To the reductionists satanic symbols and rituals are "only" metaphorical. In reality they make no difference, but they draw - in pictures and words - an imaginary reality.

The very word "imaginary" is interesting in this connection, because it derives from the word "imago" which means image/picture. Now, of course, it is a fact that human beings experience all reality through images. We are never in touch with something which might be called reality in itself behind the image.

However, the very point is that images are created all the time for us. We do not draw them ourselves. We are not sovereign in our experience of life. It comes to us in images. We are not powerless though, the images challenge us to agree to them or reject them. We re-act to the images, we do not only act. We are being manipulated through many channels. Quite literally, in our time we are being manipulated through TV and radio channels and we are "only" able to choose between the channels, but then, we are really able to do that. We get the program we select when we choose a channel, but the program comes to us, we do not make it ourselves.

4. Satan Came to the Church of Satan

Satanism is a program which is on-line, because one selects a certain channel.

There is a very important quotation from USA's greatest expert on Satanism in the USA, the practicing Satanist Michael Aquino from Seth's Tempel. In the Book of Coming Forth by Night (1985) he writes:

In its formative years, the Church of Satan took an essential metaphorical approach towards the being from whom it took its name. "Satan" was the term representing, it was thought, simply the principle of carnality. Such rituals and ceremonies as the Church first celebrated, (therefore, were conceived as illustrative, inspirational, and allegorical. At least, that's the way it all began.

"When he is called", Eliphas Levi once observed, "the Devil comes and is seen". And in that prosaic statement lies a truth whose implications challenge the rational constructs of the most exacting intellects. The one common feature to all the gods of all the nations of history, it may be said, is that they do not come and are not seen.

Satan, however, did come to the Church of Satan - first as the faintest of atmospheres in its ceremonies, and ultimately as a metaphysical presence whose expressions of being were awesome, exhilarating - the very fire of life to those who took his name as a part of their own and called themselves Satanists.

It appears from the testimonies of Satanists themselves that Satanism as a pop phenomenon falls within what we have called the sociological or psychological reductionist model, but as a real phenomenon in the religious sense of the word, what is involved is a reality which is characterized by creating alternative realities.

From a theological point of view this makes sense, but it also makes sense from a philosophical point of view unless one is a naive positivist who suffers from the reductionistic idea that there is but one reality and it lies just in front of us and is both tangible and easy to grasp.

One does not have to stray into the new religious "solipsism" (that "only I myself" exist) to escape positivism. One only has to realize that the subjective sense qualities are just as real and decisive in life as are the so-called objective processes.

Even if Satanism "only" functions within the subjective sense qualities then Satanism does exist and function as a reality which can make people do whatever is abominable and disgusting.

5. The Content of Satanism

Thus Satanism is an understandable phenomenon. Nobody can deny that it exists. It is experienced as a widespread phenomenon and, to all appearances, there is every reason to believe that it is increasing, and increasing rapidly in some place in the world.


Considered as a phenomenon which has been explained by a number of partial explanations in the nature of sociology, psychology, and psychiatry. However, the phenomenon reaches further than that.

Satanism is about reality itself. What does a person select for his life program? Satanism is an expression of such a choice. Maybe one chooses without realizing the consequences, but when one plays with fire it catches.

If one calls upon Satan, Satan comes. There is consequence, well, causality in life. You will get what you want.

But what does Satanism aim at? As will appear from above, it does not aim at anything in particular, but it aims at being against something. In a Christian context consequently Satanism consists in a radical denial of the Christian faith. Hence it is very easy to describe Satanism. It is what it pretends to be, it is anti-Christianity, pure and simple.

Satanism is, for instance, fixed on the Christian Eucharist, because that is the core of the Christian faith. Consequently the anti-Eucharist is the core of Satanism. Just like Christians eat and drink to find salvation, Satanists have rituals where they drink and eat like Hell, preferably with blood rituals and symbols of rejection.

As the Eucharist is a meal of love where the Christians unite with their Lord and Master, the satanic "black mass" is furnished with sexual symbols and signs and works which mock the Christian concept of love and deify the sexual union.

The Christians have been accused of cannibalism, while actually, instead of being man-eaters they are man-lovers. Hence there are real cannibalistic traits in Satanism.

Christians have set the child at the center. Hence a ritual of murdering children takes place in satanic circles. It is difficult - in fact impossible - to demonstrate how widespread this phenomenon is, but you can hardly exclude the possibility that it takes place, disregarding the fact that we all wish to think of something else!

The Christian faith is built on mercy, compassion, and sympathy as its basic motives in the ethical sense. Hence Satanism maintains the right of the superior force, while mercy is degrading and inhuman.

The Christian love of one's neighbor is the heart of the Christian faith. Therefore contempt of the "ordinary person" is its satanic shadow.

Racism and sexism are friends of Satanism. Satanically, a woman is reduced to being an instrument in the attempt to deify the man, and she is the instrument required in the attempt of creating a "moon-child", i.e. a child who has Satan as a sperm donor in a ritual intercourse. In the movie "Rose Mary's Baby", this is the main theme.

And you could go on this way. Everything the churches represent is rejected by Satanism. Where Christians say "renounce" in the Confession, Satanist say "believe" and where we say "believe", they say "renounce".

In many ways the Christian relationship to Satanism reminds one of the Christian relationship to Nazism and Communism. For many years one would not believe that these movements really stood for what they actually did stand for. It could not be true! But it was true, well, it is true this very day.

No wonder there is this likeness because both Nazism and Communism were and are of a satanic nature. Only, they are the political manifestations of Satanism. For Satanism is not just something spiritual. Because it is spiritual it pushes forward in all possible places, also where one least expects it.

Real Satanism, the qualified Satanism so to speak, is characterized by the fact that it acts by bad faith. Satanists know God's love through Jesus Christ, but will not, on any account, know of it. The psychological basis of their hatred towards God is probably self-hatred, but, certainly, this is also valid the other way round.

So there is something consciously anti-human about Satanism. Our domestic (Danish) Satanist above all, Neutzsky-Wulff, warningly writes to a disciple that he is on his way to become either an animal or a God; a human and "one of them" he never becomes anymore.

But thereby it is also made clear that Satanism creates what it names: damnation. Damnation is losing one's createdness and one's humanity, one's child's conditions with God. The Satanist wants to lose this and he shall.

6. Some Relevant Theological Issues

Occultism in general and Satanism especially raise a series of theological questions which are only new in so far as their relevance is renewed by the new Occultism and the new Satanism.

At the heart of Occultism and Satanism is the dream of divination. Man's eternal dream seems to be in the nature of a God-complex. Man will not accept the human limits but wants to become like God. In the Christian context God offers man participation in the divine nature of Christ through sacramental grace. But man's alternative seems to be the same as it was in the previous generations: It is better to get it on your own in your own way: Take the divinity by divine technology and go divine by the divine recipe.

Man's dream of divination is, however, a shadow of the real thing: God's habitation among men and men's salvation by God.

Evil in Occultism and Satanism manifests itself in the form of demons, i.e. elementals and principalities, often in the form of a cosmic animism and spiritualism. Since Satan can only be understood as the opposite of God, as God's opponent, similarly the demons can only be understood as fallen angels! Evil was not there as the primal reality. Evil cannot exist and never could exist in itself, only as a power devouring goodness.

Similarly demons only have meaning if angels have meaning! Which they obviously have, unless one joins the reductionist and the one-dimensional rejection of reality as it is factually experienced.

Angels actually mean messengers from God, actual expression of God's personal kindness. It is a definite fact that human beings everywhere at all times and in all generations had and still have experiences of such God-messengers.

That the opposite experience - that of demons - also occurs is a similar fact, but the factual experience of two different groups of messengers is only a problem for those who have an alternative religious stance, namely that of monism, i.e. that everything is the same, nothing is good and nothing evil, nothing is true and nothing untrue.

A theological approach to Occultism and Satanism is, of course, religious and has to be so. An evaluation of a religious phenomenon must be religious itself. If not there is no encounter between the parties.

To believe that sociology, psychology, and psychiatry can understand, explain, and deal with Occultism and Satanism is as unrealistic as it is to believe that the same branches of science can deal with revelation and God's grace.

Theology is different because it understands from where it stands. It has a standpoint, and as Christian theology it has the advantage in attempting to understand Occultism and Satanism that its standpoint is exactly what Occultism and Satanism are profiled against.

Résumé en Français

Lorsque le débat fait rage sur la définition et l'existence même du satanisme, le chrétien se doit de rappeler que l'essentiel du satanisme est son opposition au christianisme. Il n'y a pas de satanisme sans anti-christianisme. Les explications sociologiques et psychologiques du satanisme ne peuvent être que partielles. Le satanisme a aussi une dimension théologique, et ses rituels demeurent incompréhensibles pour ceux qui ne les comparent pas aux rituels chrétiens dont ils se veulent l'inversion ou la parodie. Le théologien se pose aussi la question de la présence de Satan a l'intérieur du satanisme. Bien que plusieurs satanistes soient plus ou moins athées, et considèrent Satan seulement comme un symbole, la réitération du rituel peut finalement engendrer des phénomènes troublants ou le théologien peut reconnaître en effet une manifestation du Diable.