TEMPLE OF SET Post Office Box 470307, San Francisco, California 94147 MCI-Mail: 278-4041 T
TEMPLE OF SET
Post Office Box 470307, San Francisco, California 94147
MCI-Mail: 278-4041 * Telex: 6502784041
Michael A. Aquino, Ph.D.
High Priest of Set
July 4, 1991 CE
"The Enemies of our Enemies" by Isaac Bonewits
_Green Egg_ #XXIV-93, Litha 1991
If it surprises the average neopagan that Isaac Bonewits attacks
Satanism so venomously, a bit of information concerning his own past
should serve to place things in a bit more perspective.
Bonewits began his own occult career in 1967 as a member of the
Church of Satan - and a most enthusiastic one at that. The 1968
documentary film _Satanis: The Devil's Mass_ includes a memorable
ritual sequence in which Isaac implores Anton LaVey to increase the
size of his penis. Anton obliges with an appropriate incantation.
There may be something to magic after all. Certainly Bonewits has
since gone on to become an upstanding member of the American occult
Unfortunately Isaac's stay with the Church of Satan was circumcised
soon after the filming of _Satanis_. In the section of his _Real
Magic_ that Bonewits devotes to denouncing the Church, he mentions
nothing of this - and indeed tries to represent his own C/S
membership as an "infiltration". Anton LaVey's later comments to me
paint a somewhat different picture of the situation:
"Isaac Bonewits is a bright young man, but stridently boorish to a
self-destructive degree. He came to me at age 19, expecting me to
recognize him as a peer. Due to our 20-year age difference, I had
accumulated more knowledge, experience, abilities, and material
benefits. Hence I did not recognize him as he wished. He insisted. I
told him to go away. Ever since then he has been spinning his wheels
in an attempt to defame and discredit me. That is the whole story of
poor Isaac. Any success he may attain in life will be goaded by his
bitterness at my rejection - a phenomenon which is neither uncommon
nor unfamiliar to me, or to any other successful person." (June 20,
This assessment was expanded upon in a letter from the Church of
Satan published in the _Earth Religion News_ in 1974:
"This one [Bonewits] I remember well. He was the perfect example of
one who has an enormously high I.Q. (potential) coupled with a total
lack of common sense (actuality). He spent several months standing
on a corner in Berkeley with a bull-horn, given to him by a member
of the Church, in the attempt to gain new members to LaVey-ism. He
failed; he brought in none.
"Contrary to popular opinion, Anton LaVey had a great deal of
patience, and at long last it was taxed to the fullest. On one
memorable evening Anton at long last lost his cool and was obliged
to throw him out. If his most devout followers could have seen the
way that he crawled, and I mean literally, upon his hands and knees
and cried like a baby before he was finally dumped into the street
from whence he came, they would thoroughly understand his hatred for
his one-time Coven Master ... He did not "infiltrate" as has been
alleged, but came willingly - and noisily - to most of our
activities. But even so, I do not begrudge I.B. his anger. He was
not mature enough at the time to realize what was going on, and like
a child would throw what amounted to a temper tantrum when things
weren't going his way. All that it took was a heavy hand to place
him on the proper Path. Let us all hope that he remains there."
Thereafter neither the Church of Satan nor the Temple of Set paid
much attention to Bonewits. Periodically one would hear of him
making this or that Dramatic Entrance. He obtained a B.A. degree in
"Magic" from the University of California - a pretty good trick
considering that U.C. has no faculty in Magic. Undaunted, he
proceeded to demonstrate the value of such a diploma by using it as
a dust-jacket for his _Real Magic_ - one of those "occult ABC" books
which I am ever so grateful he didn't claim to be a Satanist when
authoring. I seem to recall he next decided to be house wizard of
the Society for Creative Anachronism - a nice way to get all dressed
up for SCA tournaments without the risk of getting conked on the
head by a wooden sword. The last I heard he had decided to call
himself a druid. So now, according to _Green Egg_ he is an "Adr. of
Ar nDraiocht Fein", whatever that is. Well, OK. As New York's
elegant Sicilian Wiccan Leo Louis Martello once observed to me,
"Everyone can go to hell on his own banana peel."
Now that Adr. Isaac's bias on the subject of Satanism is a bit less
obscure than he would evidently care to volunteer, let's take a look
at "Enemies of our Enemies":
Isaac begins by asserting that Satanists "would like to destroy us
(the non-Satanic neopagan community)". Therefore, he argues, for NPs
to ally themselves with Satanists, even against recent Christian
fundamentalist attacks on all non-Christian religions, is as foolish
as sheep allying themselves with wolves.
I have been a Satanist for quite some time now, and I can't recall
any Satanic program to "destroy" either Wicca or any other NP
religion. Do we think that these religions are theologically
correct? No, we don't - and we explain our reasoning when
appropriate. But as long as NPs respect our right to our religion,
we respect their right to whatever they want to believe in, no
matter how inaccurate it might seem to us. This is the essence of
religious toleration as stated in the United States Constitution.
The Temple of Set is not an organizational member of AMER, as our
By-Laws prohibit our affiliation with any other institution. Both my
wife Lilith and I were invited to join AMER as individual founding
members, however, and after reviewing AMER's statement of principles
we accepted. Subsequently the AMER board of directors invited Lilith
to serve as a director, which she proceeded to do with distinction.
What Bonewits fails to understand - or would merely prefer to ignore
- is that AMER promotes freedom of expression for _all_ religions,
fundamental Christianity included, as long as such freedom does not
extend to suppression or intimidation of those who hold different
beliefs. It seems to us that in these repressive times AMER has
acted to uphold a very important principle of American culture, and
both Lilith and I are proud to lend our names to that effort.
Bonewits goes on to explain how thoroughly despicable Satanists are.
According to him there is no such thing as a decent, respectable
Satanist. One can only choose between different kinds of rottenness
- from insidious neo-fascism to heavy metal punkism to "psycho
Satanists committing atrocities even against their own children".
They are "a bunch of jerks, fascists, and psychopaths". Even
Christian fundamentalists, since they are so nasty, deserve to be
called honorary Satanists too.
This is a very impressive tirade and would be even more so if it
bore any relation whatever to the truth.
Satanism as a religion was first codified by the Church of Satan in
1966, then developed by the Temple of Set after its founding in
1975. As the legitimate, legally organized and recognized
institution espousing this religion, we assert the right to define
what it is and what it is not. This is no different from the claim
of legitimate Christian churches to define modern Christianity, or
of Jewish institutions to define their religion, or of Wiccans to
define Wicca. Christians do not have the right to define Judaism or
any other non-Christian religion. Neither Christian fundamentalists,
nor Geraldo Rivera, nor Adr. Isaac Bonewits of Ar nDraiocht Fein may
assert a right to define Satanism.
Satanism is actually based on two very simple principles: first,
that the individual human consciousness is a free agent apart from
the non-conscious forces of nature; and second, that this fact is so
frightening to most people that they have "demonized" it and either
suppressed, punished, or sublimated its influence on themselves. To
be a Satanist, therefore, one must not only appreciate, exercise,
and enjoy the first principle. One must also be aware of the
incomprehension, fear, and hatred with which the Country of the
Blind regards those with sight.
The old Church of Satan dealt with such a dangerous social climate
by a mixture of burlesque and sarcasm. Anton LaVey was tolerated
because he was a "clown", a "circus performer", etc. Similarly the
Church explained its religion to the public as a kind of theatre to
expose and lampoon the hypocrisy of conventional society. [This was
something that the public could understand rather more easily than
heavy doses of metaphysics.]
At the time of its founding the Temple of Set rejected both of these
techniques, determining rather to explore the Satanic philosophy
quietly, seriously, and with an emphasis on its intrinsic
philosophical features. This served us well until the fundamentalist
anti-occult mania of the mid-1980s, when a new generation of
witchfinders-general began looking around for some Devil-worshippers
to burn at the stake. Lo and behold, they indeed found something
calling itself "Satanism" - and that was good enough for a
torchlight parade. Hence we have had to spend more time than we
would like removing their teeth from our ankles.
Clearly neo-Nazis, Klansmen, heavy-metal musicians, and
sacrificing/molesting psychos are not Satanists by the Temple of
Set's definition. You can only call them so if, like Lewis Carroll's
Humpty-Dumpty, you re-define the term "Satanism" to mean whatever
you want it to mean. If Isaac Bonewits wants to re-define druidism
to his personal taste, that is a matter between him, other would-be
druids, and anyone else who cares to pay attention to him. But when
he tries to distort our religion for hate-propaganda purposes, it is
time for us to dump him once again into the street.
"Most Satanists," continues Bonewits, "actively approve of various
types of behavior that NPs consider to be unethical and immoral ...
There is nothing in Satanic belief to separate the genuinely evil
from the merely obnoxious; anything you can get away with is
approved of by the God of Evil."
Has there ever been a religion on this planet that _didn't_ consider
the competition "unethical, immoral, and Evil"? As far as Satanists
are concerned, I think we could make a good case for faulting the
ethics, morality, and righteousness of several non-Satanic
religions. We could probably even find an unethical, immoral, and
evil druid if we looked hard enough.
After wading through more passionate oratory, we come to the point
Isaac is apparently trying to make. "We don't have the right to
exclude [Satanists] from our public events nor to prevent them from
shopping in our stores nor to keep them from talking to the media,
_much as we might like to_. We must honor their constitutional
rights to practice their religion. But we don't have to be helpful
to them in the process."
Well, Mr. Bonewits, would you indeed "like to" treat Satanists as
the Nazis treated the Jews - excluding them from social events, the
economy, and the media? And is it only the inconvenience of the
Constitution that prevents you from doing so? And are you indeed
proposing that, if such distasteful tolerance is necessary, then at
least it can be made as difficult for Satanists as possible?
I daresay we need look no further for our unethical, immoral, and
The essence of toleration is precisely that it must be sincere,
active, and complete. If one grudgingly nods to the word, then
scrabbles about for clandestine ways to prosecute personal bigotry,
are we to respect him as a spokesman for neopaganism? I think not.
Fortunately the majority of neopagans we have met are more of the
AMER mold. To them the free exchange of ideas is never a threat -
and indeed dialogue with the representatives of other magical,
philosophical, and religious schools of thought can be stimulating.
The Satanic religion has been refined over the last twenty-six years
not only by internal research but by a more enlightened
understanding of non-Satanic approaches to the same phenomena we
consider important. If neopagans wish to see clearly both the
strengths and weaknesses of their beliefs, with an eye to
appreciating the former and correcting the latter, then a similarly-
open attitude is essential.
Out the door, Isaac.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank