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Secret Lineages and De Facto Satanists: Anton LaVey's Use of Esoteric Tradition
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
2013 (English)In: Contemporary Esotericism / [ed] Asprem, Egil & Granholm, Kennet, Sheffield, UK & Bristol, US: Equinox Publishing, 2013, 72-90 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The chapter investigates how Anton LaVey constructs a Satanic tradition in his texts, and to what use he puts it. It presents an interpretation of this based on LaVey’s overall ontology and view of religious and esoteric phenomena. LaVey both utilizes historical predecessors in a way that is common within Western esotercism in general, and breaks with this common usage. Discarding most of the old esoteric and Satanic material as ineffectual and outdated, he paradoxically still emerges as dependent on it. The chapter argues that the prime function of tradition for LaVey is not legitimization, as perhaps would be expected. Rather, he seems to deem tradition most useful for bringing about certain psychological effects in a framework where one practises the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ in a limited context, playfully creating the right atmosphere for Satanic activities. The mechanics of tradition are thus openly displayed and consciously utilized as mood‐creating spectacle for purely instrumental purposes. Hence, LaVey’s references to secret lineages should not be considered a counterfeiting of tradition, since he is quite openly playing with the psychological effects of (a more or less fictitious) tradition, and inviting others to take part in this game.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sheffield, UK & Bristol, US: Equinox Publishing, 2013. 72-90 p.
Keyword [en]
Satanism, Tradition, Anton LaVey, Church of Satan, Legitimation
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religion
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-84758ISBN: 978-1-908049-32-2OAI: diva2:581366
Available from: 2013-01-01 Created: 2013-01-01 Last updated: 2013-08-27Bibliographically approved

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