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For other uses of this term, see occult (disambiguation).
The word occult comes from Latin occultus (hidden), referring to the 'knowledge of the secret' or 'knowledge of the hidden' and often meaning 'knowledge of the supernatural', as opposed to 'knowledge of the visible' or 'knowledge of the measurable', usually referred to as science. The modern term's meaning is often imprecisely translated and used as a term for 'secret knowledge' or 'hidden knowledge', in the sense of meaning 'knowledge meant only for certain people' or 'knowledge that must be kept hidden'. For most practicing occultists, however, it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that cannot be understood using pure reason or material science. The ancient Greek term for occult is esoteric.

Contents [hide]
1 Occultism
2 History
3 The Occult and Christianity
4 See also
5 External links

Occultism is the study of supposed occult or hidden wisdom. To the Occultist it is the study of Truth, or rather the deeper truth that exists beyond the surface: 'The Truth Is Always Hidden In Plain Sight'. It may be considered by some to be a 'grey' area, perhaps larger than any other in the realm of religion. It can deal with subjects ranging from talismans, magic (alternatively spelled and defined as magick), sorcery, and voodoo, to ESP (Extra-sensory perception), astrology, numerology, lucid dreams, or even religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It is all encompassing in that most everything that isn't claimed by any of the major religions (and many things that are) is included in the realm of the occult. Even qabalah has been considered an occult study, perhaps because of its popularity amongst magi and Thelemites. The 'Wise Men' in the bible who visited the Infant Jesus are said to have been Magi of the Kabbalah. It was later adopted by the Golden Dawn and brought out into the open by Aleister Crowley and his protégé Israel Regardie. Since that time many authors have added insight to the study of the Occult by drawing parallels between different disciplines. One of the most notable organizations is Ordo Mentis which created a system of magic from the roots of many different systems and styles.[citation needed]

Direct insight into or perception of the occult is said not to consist of access to physically measurable facts, but to be arrived at through the mind or the spirit. The term can refer to mental, psychological or spiritual training. It is important to note however, that many occultists will also study science (perceiving science as a branch of Alchemy) to add validity to occult knowledge in a day and age where the mystical can easily be undermined as flights-of-fancy. An oft-cited means of gaining insight into the occult is the use of a focus. A focus may be a physical object, a ritualistic action (for example, meditation or chanting), or a medium in which one becomes wholly immersed. The previous examples are but a mere sample of the vast and numerous avenues that can be explored.

The beliefs and practices of those who consider their activities "occult" or part of "the occult" in the more usual western interpretation 'hidden knowledge' (ceremonial magicians, and so on) are generally far from being secret or hidden, being found very easily in print or on the Internet. This ready availability is historically recent and corresponds to a reduced interest in traditional religion and the promulgation by occultists of the perception of the occult as a broad term for a radical alternative to orthodoxy. As there are huge amounts of authors of the occult in the modern age, it is important for the student to question the validity of all books and to cross reference numerous times with other authors on the same subject. 'Beware False Prophets'. Most mass printed Occult knowledge is however, only for beginners. The sourcing of the more in-depth and advanced work can be a 'trial-of-spirit' in itself.

Occultism has seen countless resurgences throughout history. H. P. Lovecraft, Anton LaVey, Gerina Dunwich, Robert Owen Scott Jr. and Robert Anton Wilson have ensured occultism a permanent place in western popular culture.

The Occult and Christianity
Christians view the occult as being anything supernatural which is done, not by God's power, but by the power of evil spirits. Many Christians believe that these supernatural happenings may be potentially harmful to human beings, either spiritually or perhaps even physically. Many Christians believe it is very unwise to get involved in occult practices, such as witchcraft, magic, astrology, numerology, or the use of Ouija boards or Tarot cards as they consider that there is a risk of real, evil powers being behind any supernatural occurrences involved in these practices.

See also
Christian anarchism
Isaac Newton's occult studies
Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path
List of occult authors
List of occultists
National mysticism
New Age
Western mystery tradition
Esoteric Christianity
External links
Look up Occult in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.The Hermetic Library
Glossary of Magick, Hermeticism, and the Occult
Apologetics Index - Christian website about cults and the occult.
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Categories: Articles lacking sources | Occult | Esotericism



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This article is about Esotericism. See Esoteric (band) and Esoterica (band) for the English bands. See Esoteric programming language for the type of computer programming language.
Spirituality portal
Esotericism refers to knowledge suitable only for the advanced, privileged, or initiated, as opposed to exoteric knowledge, which is public. It is used especially for mystical, occult and spiritual viewpoints.

Contents [hide]
1 Etymology & Connotations
1.1 "Esotericism" as "inner"
1.2 "Esotericism" as selective
1.3 "Esotericism" as secretive or "occult"
1.4 "Esotericism" in current usage
1.5 Origins of the term "Esotericism"
1.6 Influences on the man who coined the term "Esotericism"
2 Esoteric vs. Esotericism
3 Nuances
4 Scope
5 Historical sketch
6 Esoteric themes
7 Traditions
8 Esotericism in popular culture
9 See also

Etymology & Connotations
Esoteric is an adjective originating in Hellenic Greece under the domain of the Roman Empire; it comes from the Greek esôterikos, from esôtero, the comparative form of esô: "within". Esoteric refers to anything that is inner and occult. Its antonym is exoteric, from the Greek eksôterikos, from eksôtero, the comparative form of eksô: "outside".

Plato (427-347 BC) uses in his dialogue Alcibíades (aprox. 390 BC) the expression ta esô meaning «the inner things», and in his dialogue Teeteto (aprox. 360 BC) he uses ta eksô meaning «the outside things». The probable first appearance of the Greek adjective esôterikos is in Lucian of Samosata's (aprox. AD 120-180) "The Auction of Lives", § 26 (also called "The Auction of the Philosophical Schools"), written around AD 166. [1]

The word "esotericism" has a highly multivalent meaning, and so its etymology will here be divided into three sections below based on its main three usages: as "inner," as "selective," and as "secretive."

"Esotericism" as "inner"
Esoteric knowledge is knowledge that pertains to the "inner" aspect of experience: the soul, spirit, mind, psyche, experience itself, etc. Historically, in Western societies esoteric knowledge has not generally been known. This was in large part because it was deliberately kept secret from those outside a small group, in some cases because the group was highly selective, and in other cases because certain esoteric teachings were considered heresy (along with certain exoteric ones, such as the spherical earth theory). Therefore, such knowledge was confined within certain small disciplines, either highly selective or highly secretive, or both, as described below. However, the primary sense of the word as meaning "inner" has been retained by modern esotericism, and in the Information Age the selectivity and secrecy is largely disappearing. Still, for historical reasons, it is important to understand the connotation of this widely abused and bastardized term.

"Esotericism" as selective
A prime example of a historically highly selective category of esoteric teaching is within the academic discipline of philosophy, (in particular, philosophy of mind), whose teachers maintain selectivity by limiting their scope to colleges and universities. This discipline has not focused entirely on esoteric thought, but enough that the term "philosophical knowledge" can generally be used in the place of "esoteric knowledge" when referring to knowledge pertaining to the same "inner" aspects listed above. The Oxford English Dictionary lists as its prime definition of esoteric, "Of philosophical doctrines," although modern philosophers generally avoid the term "esoteric" due to its negative associations with the occult as described below.

In the late 19th to early 20th Century, the discipline of psychology branched off from philosophy a reaction away from the "inner" nature of philosphy towards the more emperical, practical, exoteric nature of science and medicine. Ironically this was spearheaded by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, both of whom privately showed great interest in the occult and esotericism, including psycic phenomena, although it would be difficult in the time of Darwin and Einstein to appear unscientific in their professional lives. Through the 20th Century to present day, there have been various subsets of psychology that were more esoteric or spiritual than behavioral or scientific in basis, such as Gestalt therapy, although these subsets generally avoided the term "esotericism" due to its negative connotation with "the occult" and "New Age" authors such as Alice Bailey, who wrote a series of books in the early 20th Century entitled Esoteric Psychology. Many esoteric Eastern teachings, or Eastern esotericism, are also referred to as Eastern philosophies, although if they are taught, practiced, or reformulated by Westerners, they are often considered New Age, a term Bailey coined.

"Esotericism" as secretive or "occult"
On the other hand, there are many examples of the highly secretive category of esoteric teachings, which are usually referred to as occult (from the Latin for hidden). The category of "the occult" is broad and encompasses many exoteric teachings as well, such as alchemy, particularly if those teachings may have also had an esoteric aspect. Further, efforts by certain religions to identify and warn against heretical teachings has added a highly pejorative connotation to "occult," and by extension, "esoteric." This is so prevalent that many non-religious sources now consider "occult" and "esoteric" to mean exactly the same thing, and it has also led to religions like Voodoo, Sufiism, and Wicca to be grouped together with Satanism, cults, and Dungeons and Dragons, regardless of how "hidden" or "inner" the concerns of any of these may be, or even if they are religions at all (but merely games that make no attempt to be secretive). Historically, "occult" (i.e. secretive and hidden) forms of esotericism ("inner" teachings) included magic, freemasonry, and certain monastic and ascetic traditions. In Eastern societies, however, such as Tibet, esoteric knowledge was more generally known and was not suppressed by those in power. As well, today in modern Western societies, due to the separation of church and state, the suppression of "inner" teachings has generally subsided, to the extent that formerly secret groups such as the Theosophical Society and the Rosicrucian Fellowship may teach freely to anyone, often without cost.

"Esotericism" in current usage
In Western, English-speaking socities, the term "esotericism" today is primarily used in the sense of "the occult," but in perhaps a less pejorative connotation. "Esoteric" has also come to mean any knowledge that is difficult to understand or remember, such as theoretical physics, or pertaining to the minutiae of a particular discipline, such as "esoteric" baseball statistics. And so, today, when people use the term "esoteric," they are not usually referring to esotericism per se in the sense of "inner" knowledge, disciplines, or practices. Further, esotericists usually refer to themselves by a more specific term related to their discipline (such as Gnostic, Kabbalist, Sufi, Mystic, etc).

Of course, there are many present-day teachings that term themselves forms of "esotericism" simply due to their focus on the "inner" aspect of experience (such as self-transformation) or the "inner" meanings of religious texts (such as Esoteric Christianity and "the Work" of G.I. Gurdjieff). Also, there are many past traditions that should be classified under the term "esotericism" due to their "inner" focus as well as their "selective" and "secretive" nature, such as Martinism, one of the most influential "occult" movements since the Enlightenment.

Origins of the term "Esotericism"
The earliest English mention of "esoteric" was in the 1701 History of Philosophy by Thomas Stanley, in his description of the "Auditors of Pythagoras." The Pythagoreans were divided into "exoteric," which were under review, and "esoteric," which had performed well enough to be admitted into the "inner" circle (perhaps why they were called "esoteric," or perhaps it was because they had finally grasped the "inner" aspect of the teaching).

The first uses of the term "esotericism" (also sometimes written as esoterism), as opposed to "esoteric" or "esotery" (without the -ism), appear in the 19th century, when the overall number of "-isms" seemed to be multiplying exponentially as academia was expanding into the Age of Reason, and classifying increasingly abstract concepts. It first appeared as the noun substantive l'ésotérisme in the work Histoire critique du gnosticisme et de ses influences (1828) of Jacques Matter (1791-1864). In this context, "esoterism" was used to indicate knowledge, teachings, and practices of an "inner" nature, since obviously if they were very "secret," the work would not have been published. but also "secret" is appropriate here, since many of the main Gnostic texts were not known until Nag Hammadi papyri and Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

Later, the Martinist and cabalist Eliphas Lévi (1810-1875) made common the use of the terms esotericism and occultism, as he was a direct descendant from the tradition that Matter began. The term became fashionable after Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) and other personalities of the Theosophic Society used it during the last quarter of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. In this context, Esotericism was used in the sense of highly «secretive» knowledge, as described above, but of course, due to the content of the mystical teachings of Martinism, the relation to the "inner" aspect of life is an undeniable meaning as well.

Influences on the man who coined the term "Esotericism"
It should also be noted that Jacques Matter was himself an esotericist, and coined the term "Martinism," as he was the grandson of Rodolphe de Salzmann, from whom he had inherited the complete and more-or-less unpublished writings of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, whom he largely created as the "founder of Martinism," according to French historian René Philipon. Phillipon also notes in his 1899 work Notice historique sur le martinésisme et le martinisme that the original teachings of Martinism stemmed from Martinès de Pasqually, a Freemason charged with travelling the countryside and establishing Masonic communes, who began in his zeal to depart from the "true base of the Masonic institution." From this departure de Saint-Martin departed even further, integrating the pneumatology of Philo as well as magnetism and alchemy, forming a more "passive" practice akin to "mysticism," as opposed to the slightly more exoteric teachings of Freemason ministry ("opérations extérieures du Maître"), which had evolved out of the actual practices and thought of medieval stone masons.

The important overall trend in the origins of "esotericism" is the typical Rennaissance influence of ancient philosophy, which had recently been rediscovered after the dark ages, as well as a reaction away from the science and rational thought of the Enlightenment, as symbolized by such figures as scientist-turned-esoteric figures like Emanuel Swedenborg and the lasting influence of Jacob Boehme.

Esoteric vs. Esotericism
The word esoteric generally relates to that which is known and accepted by a restricted number of people (contrast exoteric). The word esotericism (or esoterism) used in a general sense can simply mean any knowledge which is secret or confidential. Used in its more specific sense it refers to the knowledge of those who claim to have had supernatural experiences. While these experiences typically are not validated by scientific experiments, scientific proof is not always necessary for belief. Esoteric experiences tend to be highly subjective and so are difficult to study with the scientific method. There exists some skepticism about these experiences due to this lack of empirical evidence and sufficient proof; however, among supporters of esotericism, most believe that measurement of this phenomena simply exceeds current scientific capabilities. Esotericism is one of the subjects studied under the discipline parapsychology.

Esotericism largely overlaps with occultism which simply means "hidden knowledge." However, in the 20th century many esotericists avoid the latter term owing to negative connotations associated with it (for example, the presumption that it involves devil-worship or black magic). For the same reason, many (predominantly Christian) opponents of esotericism prefer the term "occultism."

Much overlap exists as well between esotericism and mysticism. However, many mystical traditions do not attempt to introduce additional spiritual knowledge, but rather seek to focus the believer's attention or prayers more strongly upon the object of devotion. Thus Trappist monk Thomas Merton may be a mystic, but is probably not an esotericist.

The New Age movement has many links with various esoteric traditions. However, many esotericists disavow the "New Age" label. Often they reject elements of the New Age movement as commercialism and/or naivite with which they do not wish to be associated. Another difficulty is that of describing as "new" esoteric traditions that may be hundreds or even thousands of years old. On the other hand, "traditions" that are actually rather new are often clothed in a fictional history and passed off as ancient in commercialized esotericism; it takes some discernment to see through such marketing techniques.

"Theosophy" means "divine wisdom" and once—in the writings of Jacob Boehme, for example—meant something similar to "esotericism." Today, however, it has come to refer to the Theosophical Society founded by H.P. Blavatsky, and to other movements in this tradition.

Finally, culturally speaking, many followers of Satanism do probably belong under the general category of esotericism. However, these are shunned by practically everyone else, and for that matter their relationships with one another have been strained as well. Esotericism has far deeper ties--both historically and in the present day--with Christianity, though conservative Christian groups may be uncomfortable with the forms that this Christianity has taken.

Many religious movements in various parts of the world claim to possess a higher, truer, or better interpretation of the wider religion of which they are a part. Whether they are correct is inevitably a matter of controversy. Not infrequently, the claims of one esoteric group may be rejected by the wider religious culture, or by other esoteric groups which make their own rival claims.

While esotericism tends to focus on personal enlightenment and internal spiritual practice, organized religion or exotericism tends to focus on outer spiritual practice and ritual and on laws that govern the society. Nevertheless, esotericism also involves traditions, institutions, and other public aspects.

Esotericism is often said to assume the existence of a spiritual elite, as distinct from the believing masses. While many elements within esotericism are rooted in folk traditions--examples would include the Western study of magic and witchcraft--these have arguably become transformed into elite traditions by virtue of their appropriation by later antiquarians.

"Esotericism" often suggests an additional element of secrecy, for example the requirement that one be initiated before learning the higher truth (as in the case of the Freemasons). Note however that most "esoteric" teachings are widely available, and indeed often actively promoted. Some of this may be because it is now generally safer to promote alternative religious viewpoints than before.

Another possibility is that such knowledge may be kept secret not by the intention of its protectors, but by its very nature—for example, if it is accessible only to those with the proper intellectual or spiritual background. An example would be alchemy, success in which is said to involve copious amounts of study, practice, and spiritual preparation.

In some religious contexts, especially within Western Christianity, "esoteric" knowledge is seen as somewhat dangerous to the mainstream of that religion, involving the possibility of heresy. In other religious cultures such as Judaism, the leaders of the mainstream religion have historically also been recognized as the elite interpreters of its esoteric dimension, in this case Kabbalah.

The English word "esotericism" is usually applied to Western spiritual traditions. However, it has occasionally been used for non-Western religions, or more often, interpreted in such a way as to include such phenomena as yoga or tantra.

The criteria for inclusion under the label of "esoteric" are not always made explicit, and the result is often a matter of taste or historical usage. For example Emanuel Swedenborg, but not Mary Baker Eddy, is usually considered an esoteric figure, even though both developed their own inspired interpretations of the Bible.

Historical sketch
Esotericism is not a single tradition but a vast array of often unrelated figures and movements. Nevertheless, the following may be helpful.

The Roman Empire gave birth not only to Christianity but also to a group of mystery religions which emphasized initiation. Some see Christianity, with its initiation ritual of baptism, as a mystery religion.

After Christianity became the state religion of Rome, dissident Christian groups became persecuted as traitors to the state. Also, pagan groups came to be suppressed as well. The terms "Gnosticism" and "Gnosis" have been challenged as coherent categories, but refer to a family of ancient Jewish, Christian, and pagan religious movements which often did claim to possess secret teachings relating to the spirit world, as opposed to the ordinary world which they tended to denigrate. Another important movement from the ancient world was Hermeticism, sometimes called Hermetism to distinguish it from post-Renaissance appropriations of it. Separately, ancient Babylon provided the basis for Western astrology.

During the Middle Ages such things as astrology, alchemy, and magic were not distinct from the standard subjects of the curriculum of an educated man. While some people assume esotericism to be opposed to the Bible or Christianity, as a historical matter this tension did not arise until later. Indeed, Christianity contributed its own esoteric imagery, notably the Holy Grail from Arthurian literature.

The institutional danger of esotericism is its potential as an alternative source of doctrine or authority. In Gershom Scholem's view, normative Judaism distanced itself from Kaballah in the wake of Shabbatai Zevi's use of it to bolster his messianic pretentions. Similarly, Roman Catholic theologians seem to have shied away from esoteric subjects at about the same time that certain elements within the Protestant Reformation were celebrating them. An example would be the initial wave of Rosicrucian manifestoes. Magisterial Protestants themselves grew suspicious of esoteric traditions as they began to be invoked by pietist inspired figures such as Swedenborg.

Hence esotericism's inherently marginal or fringe status in the modern West. Nevertheless, esotericism of one type or another has influenced Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kant, and William Blake, to name just a few exemplary figures.

While many esoteric subjects have a history reaching back thousands of years, these have generally not survived as continuous traditions. Rather, they have benefitted from various antiquarian revival movements. During the Italian Renaissance, for example, translators such as Ficino and Pico della Mirandola turned their attention to the classical literature of neo-Platonism, and what was thought to be the pre-Mosaic tradition of Hermeticism. Nineteenth-century writers turned their attention to earlier traditions of magic and witchcraft, often in conjunction with the various nationalisms of the day. Nazi mysticism is an extreme example.

Nineteenth-century esoteric writers came to be deeply influenced by various Eastern religions, which they typically saw as partaking of the same divine truth. Thus Madame Blavatsky could combine Indian philosophy with various Western esoteric traditions. In her view, the saints and mystics of all countries and ages (many of them otherwise unknown) cooperate in a common fraternity which resembles the lodges of Freemasonry as well as the original Rosicrucians, who were said to be "invisible." (Rosicrucianism was another tradition which enjoyed a nineteenth-century revival.)

Perhaps the most important twentieth-century development was a certain psychological turn, in which esoteric subjects acquired new subjective interpretations more in accord with prevailing scientific opinion. If alchemy turned out to be a dead end when taken literally, i.e. as a search for artificial gold or the elixir of life, then it might find new life as a symbol for the workings of the unconscious, as Carl Jung would have it. The intersection of esotericism with mysticism and religious pluralism is another important emphasis of this period, and is represented in the writings of Rene Guenon. The influence of post-modernism remains to be digested.

Esoteric themes
What, in a nutshell, does "esotericism" teach? No possible answer could do justice to the myriad groups which are subsumed under this name. However, we may venture some representative examples:

Kabbalah preserves traditions describing the origin and destiny of humanity and the universe, as well as practices aimed at restoring ourselves and the world to our true stations. These are of course typical religious concerns, which in this case parallel or amplify the teachings and practices of mainstream Judaism.
Gnosticism teaches that this world is not our true home--that by seeing through the illusion and realizing our true nature, we can escape, returning to the world of spirit.
Hermeticism, including astrology, is based on the assumption that the soul and the cosmos are mysteriously and fundamentally linked. "As above, so below."
Freemasonry and some forms of alchemy use symbolic means to aid the practitioner in his individual betterment, with the aim of increasing virtue and drawing closer to the divine.
Theosophy and its offshoots teach the existence of hidden masters, who are charged with guiding earth's spiritual evolution. We may choose to actively cooperate with these efforts.
Spiritualism emphasizes the comfort of direct experience of the afterlife by means of communion with ghosts.
The Gurdjieff work teaches that people normally function like automatons, but can be taught to "wake up" via special practices which shake us out of our normal, mind-numbing habits.
Jungian psychology seeks to integrate the various dualities and contraries within a patient's psyche through involvement with myths, dreams, and visions.
Taoism seeks to preserve the thoughts of ancient chinese, and aimed to achieved balance (yin/yang) with nature. Classic works includes Daodejing which strongly influenced a lot of east Asian esotericism. Taoist commentators have been very impressed by the opening lines of the ancient Daodejing, which can be translated:
The way which can be uttered, is not the eternal Way. The name which can be named, is not the eternal Name.

(The original words are

道可道,非常道。 名可名,非常名。 In Chinese, "道" or "Dao", when used as a noun, it means "way" or "path"; but when it is used as a verb, it means "to utter" or "to speak it out".)

As important a part of esotericism as any of these answers, is the spirit of quest which has encouraged seekers throughout the ages to search the world, and their own souls, for deeper meaning and ultimately salvation.

Many groups or schools of thought embrace an esoteric tradition or philosophy:

A Course in Miracles
Alice Bailey
Christian anarchism
Cosmic Tradition
G. I. Gurdjieff
Nazi mysticism
Sufism (Esoteric Islam)
Surat Shabda Yoga
Traditionalism (Rene Guenon etc)
Vajrayana (Esoteric Buddhism)
Western mystery tradition
Esotericism in popular culture
Paulo Coelho's novel The Alchemist involves a spiritual interpretation of alchemy.

Umberto Eco has written fiction with esoteric themes, notably the satirical novel Foucault's Pendulum.

The plot of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code involves a centuries-old secret society called the Priory of Sion, charged with preserving certain secrets relating to Jesus Christ and the Merovingian kings.

See also
Esoteric Buddhism
Esoteric Christianity
Esoteric cosmology
List of Buddhist topics
List of Masonic organizations
List of spirituality-related topics
List of religious, esoteric, metaphysical and mystical symbols
Mystery religion
New Age
Odic force
Surat Shabd Yoga
Western mystery tradition
Retrieved from ""
Categories: Esotericism | Esoteric schools of thought | Occult | Mysticism



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Paganism (from Latin paganus) and Heathenry are catch-all terms which have come to connote a broad set of spiritual/religious beliefs and practices of a natural religion, as opposed to the Abrahamic religions. These beliefs, which are not necessarily compatible with each other, are usually characterized by polytheism and animism. Often, the term has pejorative connotations, comparable to infidel and Kafir in Islam.

During the expansion of the Sokoto Caliphate in West Africa, Islamic Fulbe labelled their non-Muslim neighbours (such as this Kapsiki diviner) Kirdi, or "pagans".Contents [hide]
1 Etymology
1.1 Pagan
1.2 Heathen
2 Terminology
2.1 Common Word Usage
2.2 Heathenry
2.3 Pagan classifications
3 Pagan religions
4 Neo-pagan religions
4.1 Neopaganism
4.2 Modern nature religion
5 Notes
6 See also
7 External links

The term pagan is from Latin paganus, an adjective originally meaning "rural", "rustic" or "of the country". As a noun, paganus was used to mean "country dweller, villager". After Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a state religion, Christianity spread much more slowly amongst the countryside than it did in the cities, and soon the word for "country dweller" became synonymous with someone who was "not Christian," giving rise to the modern meaning of "pagan."[1]

"Peasant" is a cognate, via Old French paisent. (Harry Thurston Peck, Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquity, 1897; "pagus".

In their distant origins, these usages derived from pagus, "province, countryside", cognate to Greek πάγος "rocky hill", and, even earlier, "something stuck in the ground", as a landmark: the Indo-European root pag- means "fixed" and is also the source of the words "page", "pale" (stake), and "pole", as well as "pact" and "peace".

Later, through metaphorical use, paganus came to mean 'rural district, village' and 'country dweller' and, as the Roman Empire declined into military autocracy and anarchy, in the 4th and 5th centuries it came to mean "civilian", in a sense parallel to the English usage "the locals". It was only after the Late Imperial introduction of serfdom, in which agricultural workers were legally bound to the land (see Serf), that it began to have negative connotations, and imply the simple ancient religion of country people, which Virgil had mentioned respectfully in Georgics. Like its approximate synonym heathen (see below), it was adopted by Middle English-speaking Christians as a slur to refer to those too rustic to embrace Christianity.

Neoplatonists in the Early Christian church attempted to Christianize the values of sophisticated pagans such as Plato and Virgil. This had some influence among the literate class, but did little to counter the more general prejudice expressed in "pagan".

While pagan is attested in English from the 14th century, there is no evidence that the term paganism was in use in English before the 17th century. The OED instances Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776): "The divisions of Christianity suspended the ruin of paganism." The term was not a neologism, however, as paganismus was already used by Augustine.

Many Slavic peoples, especially Eastern Slavs, use the word "pagan" as an insult in their language; translating roughly as a "conniving brute." The etymology of this meaning lies in the fact that after conversion, much of the Slavic lands took a dim view of the remaining non-Christians in their midsts.

Heathen is from Old English hæðen "not Christian or Jewish", (c.f. Old Norse heiðinn). Historically, the term was probably influenced by Gothic haiþi "dwelling on the heath", appearing as haiþno in Ulfilas' bible as "gentile woman," (translating the Greek in Mark 7:26). This translation probably influenced by Latin paganus, "country dweller", or it was chosen because of its similarity to the Greek ethne, "gentile". It has even been suggested that Gothic haiþi is not related to "heath" at all, but rather a loan from Armenian hethanos, itself loaned from Greek ethnos.

Common Word Usage
The term has historically been used as a pejorative by adherents of monotheistic religions (such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) to indicate a disbeliever in their religion. "Paganism" is also sometimes used to mean the lack of (an accepted monotheistic) religion, and therefore sometimes means essentially the same as atheism. "Paganism" frequently refers to the religions of classical antiquity, most notably Greek mythology or Roman religion, and can be used neutrally or admiringly by those who refer to those complexes of belief. However, until the rise of Romanticism and the general acceptance of freedom of religion in Western civilization, "paganism" was almost always used disparagingly of heterodox beliefs falling outside of the established political framework of the Christian Church. It has more recently (from the 19th century) been used admiringly by those who believe the monotheistic religions to be confining or colourless.

"Pagan" came to be equated with a popular, Christianized sense of "epicurean" to signify a person who is sensual, materialistic, self-indulgent, unconcerned with the future and uninterested in sophisticated religion. The word was usually used in this worldly sense by those who were drawing attention to the limitations of paganism, as when G.K. Chesterton wrote:

"The pagan set out, with admirable sense, to enjoy himself. By the end of his civilization he had discovered that a man cannot enjoy himself and continue to enjoy anything else."

Perhaps such usages reflect more light on Victorians than on the world of Antiquity.

Main article: Heathenry
"Heathen" (Old English hæðen) is a translation of paganus. The term is used for Germanic paganism, or Germanic Neopaganism, in particular. Originating with the Jastorf culture, the Germanic tribes were distributed over Eastern and Central Europe by the 5th century, and their dialects ceased to be mutually intelligible from around that time. Christianization of the Germanic peoples took place from the 4th (Goths) to the 6th (Anglo-Saxons, Alamanni) or 8th (Saxons) centuries on the continent, and from the 9th to 12th centuries in Iceland and Scandinavia.

Pagan classifications
Pagan subdivisions coined by Isaac Bonewits [2]

Paleo-Paganism: A retronym coined to contrast with "neopaganism", denoting a pagan culture that has not been disrupted by other cultures. The term applies to Hinduism, Shinto, pre-Migration period Germanic paganism as described by Tacitus, Celtic Polytheism as described by Julius Ceasar, and the Graeco-Roman religion.
Meso-Paganism: A group, which is, or has been, significantly influenced by monotheistic, dualistic, or nontheistic worldviews, but has been able to maintain an independence of religious practices. This includes Native Americans and Australian Aborigine Bushmen, Viking Age Norse paganism, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Spiritualism, as well as Sikhism, and the many Afro-Diasporatic faiths like Haitian Vodou, and Santería.
Neo-Paganism: An attempt by modern people to reconnect with nature, pre-Christian religions, or other nature-based spiritual paths. This definition includes such religions as Slavianstvo, Ásatrú, Neo-Druidism, and Wicca.
Pagan religions
Germanic paganism
Norse paganism
Paganism in the Eastern Alps
Celtic polytheism
Ancient Greek religion
Roman religion
Finnish paganism
Ancient Near East Paganism
Neo-pagan religions
Main article: Neopaganism
In another sense, as used by modern practitioners, paganism is a polytheistic, panentheistic or pantheistic often nature-based religious practice, but again can be atheism sometimes as well. This includes reconstructed religions such as revivalist Hellenic polytheism and Ásatrú, as well as more recently founded religions such as Wicca c. 1960, and these are normally categorised as "Neopaganism". Although many Neopagans often refer to themselves simply as "Pagan", for purposes of clarity this article will focus on the ancient religion, while Neopaganism is discussed in its own article.

This also includes religions such as Forn Sed, Celtic Neo-druidism, Longobardic odinism, Lithuanian Romuva, and Slavic Rodoverie that claim to revive an ancient religion rather than reconstruct it, though in general the difference is not absolutely fixed. Many of these revivals, Wicca, Asatru and Neo-druidism in particular, have their roots in 19th century Romanticism and retain noticeable elements of occultism or theosophy that were current then, setting them apart from historical rural (paganus) folk religion. The Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið is a notable exception in that it was derived more or less directly from remnants in rural folklore.

Still, some practitioners even of syncretized directions tend to object to the term "Neopaganism" for their religion as they consider what they are doing not to be a new thing. It must be said, also, that since the 1990s, the number of reconstructionist movements that reject romantic or occult influences has increased, even if those Neopagans who make a conscious effort to separate pre-Christian from romanticism influences are still a minority.

Modern nature religion
Many current pagans in industrial societies base their beliefs and practices on a connection to Nature, and a divinity within all living things, but this may not hold true for all forms of paganism, past or present. Some believe that there are many deities, while some believe that the combined subconscious spirit of all living things forms the universal deity. Paganism predates modern monotheism, although its origins are lost in prehistory. Ancient paganism, which tended in many cases to be a deification of the local deity, as Athena in Athens, saw each local emanation as an aspect of an Olympian deity during the Classical period and then after Alexander to syncretize the deity with the political process, with "state divinities" increasingly assigned to various localities, as Roma personified Rome. Many ancient regimes would claim to be the representative on earth of these gods, and would depend on more or less elaborate bureaucracies of state-supported priests and scribes to lend public support to their claims. This is something paganism shares with more 'mainstream' revealed religions, as can be seen in the history of the Catholic church, the Church of England and the ancient and current trends in Islam.

In one well-established sense, paganism is the belief in any non-monotheistic religion, which would mean that the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece would not be considered pagan in that sense, since they were monotheist, but not in the Abrahamic tradition. In an extreme sense, and like the pejorative sense below, any belief, ritual or pastime not sanctioned by a religion accepted as orthodox by those doing the describing, such as Burning Man, Halloween, or even Christmas, can be described as pagan by the person or people who object to them.

1. ^ The semantic development of post-classical Latin paganus in the sense "non-Christian, heathen" is unclear. The dating of this sense is controversial, but the 4th century seems most plausible. An earlier example has been suggested in Tertullian De Corona Militis xi, "Apud hunc [sc. Christum] tam miles est paganus fidelis quam paganus est miles infidelis," but here the word paganus may be interpreted in the sense "civilian" rather than "heathen".

There are three main explanations of the development:
(i) The older sense of classical Latin pāgānus is "of the country, rustic" (also as noun). It has been argued that the transferred use reflects the fact that the ancient idolatry lingered on in the rural villages and hamlets after Christianity had been generally accepted in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire; cf. Orosius Histories 1. Prol. "Ex locorum agrestium compitis et pagis pagani vocantur."
(ii) The more common meaning of classical Latin pāgānus is "civilian, non-militant" (adjective and noun). Christians called themselves mīlitēs, "enrolled soldiers" of Christ, members of his militant church, and applied to non-Christians the term applied by soldiers to all who were "not enrolled in the army".
(iii) The sense "heathen" arose from an interpretation of paganus as denoting a person who was outside a particular group or community, hence "not of the city" or "rural"; cf. Orosius Histories 1. Prol. "ui alieni a civitate dei..pagani vocantur." See C. Mohrmann, Vigiliae Christianae 6 (1952) 9ff.
-- Oxford English Dictionary, (online) 2nd Edition (1989)

See also
Pagan activism
List of Pagans
Shirk (idolatry)
Mother Goddess
Pagan beliefs surrounding Christmas
Unitarian Universalism
Christian anarchism
External links
James J. O'Donnell, "The Demise of Paganism," Traditio 35(1979), 45-88
WorldWide Pagan Network Paganism FAQ (neopagan)
Pagan Association UK (neopagan)
Association of Polytheist Traditions (neopagan - reconstructed religions)
The Universal Terran Church
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (neopagan)
Pagan Wiki
What is Pagan Religion?
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This article does not cite its references or sources. You can help Wikipedia by including appropriate citations.Forms of Satanism
LaVeyan Satanism | Luciferianism | Religious Satanism | Sat/Tan Satanism | Setianism | Traditional satanism

Associated Organizations
Church of Satan | First Church of Satan | First Satanic Church | Order of Mars | Order of Nine Angles | Order of the Left Hand Path | Temple of Set

Symbols and Figures
Baphomet | Blanche Barton | Peggy Nadramia | Anton LaVey | Karla LaVey | Lucifer | Satan

Associated Concepts
Left-Hand Path | Moral Majority | Pentagonal Revisionism | Suitheism | Survival of the fittest

Books and Publications
The Black Flame | The Church of Satan | The Satanic Bible | The Satanic Rituals

In Popular Culture
Allegations of Satanism | Satanic artists | Satanic ritual abuse
Satanism is a religious, semi-religious and/or philosophical movement whose adherents recognize Satan as an archetype, pre-cosmic force, actual living entity, or some aspect of human nature. Although named for Satan, a name associated with evil and temptation, Satanism is more commonly the name given to certain spiritual paths which emphasize the Left-Hand Path, as opposed to the much more common Right-Hand Path. Left-Handers believe in spiritual enrichment through their own work on themselves, and that ultimately they are answerable only to themselves, while Right-Handers believe in spiritual enrichment through the dissolution or submission of the self to (or into) something greater. LaVeyans do not in fact worship a deity called Satan, or necessarily any other deity, nor do they follow a principle of evil. This aspect of their beliefs is very commonly misunderstood due to the presence of theistic Satanists, who revere Satan as a literal being.

Instead of divine laws or naturistic principles (such as in Wicca), Satanism generally focuses upon material or physical advancement of the self with guidance from external higher beings or external principles, instead of submission to a deity or a set of moral codes. For this reason, many contemporary Satanists eschew traditional religious beliefs, attitudes and worship in favor of more egoistic, self-centering worldviews, natural law, survival of the fittest and practices such as materialism, individualism and magic. However, some Satanists do choose voluntary moral codes, thought carries a strong current of inversionism; although a faith in its own right groups or individuals described in some sense or another as Satanic can largely, though incomprehensively, be described as belonging to one of two unofficial sub-groupings: Philosophical Satanism or Religious Satanism.

Contents [hide]
1 History
2 Satan within Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Ayyavazhi
3 Types and approaches within Satanism
3.1 Philosophical Satanism
3.1.1 LaVeyan Satanism
3.2 Religious Satanism
3.2.1 Setian Satanism
3.3 Sat/Tan Satanism
3.4 Satanic cults
3.4.1 Devil Worship
3.5 Other Organizations, Groups, Etc.
4 Satanic philosophy
5 Criticisms of Satanism
6 Non-Satanic Sects
7 Bibliography
8 See also
9 External links

The concept of Satan has evolved over the centuries, as has Satanism.

Originally in Judeo-Christian traditions, Satan was seen as a part of creation, embodying the principle that one could choose contrary to God's wishes, and thus empowering the potential for freewill and defiance. (In this context an ancient Jewish commentary notes that only when the potential to contravene God's will arose, could creation become "very good" as opposed to merely "good"). Over the centuries this concept of Satan came to embody all that was evil and against God, a change attributable to two main influences:

The view that everything had its opposite, and that God, all-good, must have His opposing deity too (many preceding multiple deity religions also had their evil gods as well as good gods, Set of the Ancient Egyptians being one example),
The spreading of Christianity, followed by Islam, both religions which gained a wide number of adherents, which placed a high premium on salvation and the afterlife, and within which Satan grew as an embodiment of all that was trying to undermine God in this theological world-view.
As society evolved from the reformation into the enlightenment onwards (17th and 18th centuries), people in Western societies began to question the nature of evil, and Satan gradually evolved yet again in response to this, so Satanism came to signify a tradition which denied traditional religious paths in favor of a self-oriented path, rather than a path which favored evil.

In an older sense, Satanism also refers to unorthodox practices within Abrahamic religions deemed by an orthodoxy to be in opposition to the Abrahamic God. The earliest recorded instance of the word is in "A confutation of a booke (by Bp. Jewel) entitled An apologie of the Church of England", by Thomas Harding (1565): ll, ii, 42 b, "Meaning the time when Luther first bringed to Germanie the poisoned cuppe of his heresies, blasphemies, and Satanismes." As Martin Luther himself would have denied any link between his teachings and Satan, this use of the term Satanism was primarily pejorative. Many Satanists find such use of the term offensive.

Satan within Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Ayyavazhi
The term "Satan" originated with Judaism and was expanded upon by Christians and Muslims. This Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of Satan can be broken up as follows:

Jewish: Satan ‏(שטן)‏ in Hebrew, means "adversary" or "accuser", and is also the name used for the angel who tests believers. Satan is not considered an enemy of God, but a servant whose duties include testing the faith of humanity.
Islamic: The Arabic word for Satan, "al-Shaitaan" ‏(الشيطان)‏ means transgressor, or adversary, as in Judaism. It is a title which is generally attributed to a being called Iblis, who is a Jinn that disobeyed God and was condemned consequently by God to serve as a source of misguidance for mankind and the Jinn to test their faith in God. Iblis is said to be the proper name for the devil-like figure named in the Qur'an whereas there are many Shaitan.
Christian: In most branches of Christianity, Satan, originally Lucifer before he fell away from Grace, is a spiritual being or angel who was once in God's service. Satan is said to have fallen from God due to excess of pride and self-idolatry. (In Christianity, the fallen "son of the dawn" of Isaiah 14:12 is identified with the "adversary" of the Book of Job.) It is said to be Satan who whispered to man that he could become as God, negating his creaturely position, which led to man's original sin and his being cast out of Eden. Satan is also referred to as the Devil from the Greek "diavolos" (Διαβολος), meaning "slanderer" or "one who accuses falsely" (derived from a verb which most literally means "to throw across" or "carry something over"). Reportedly, LaVey made the claim that the word "devil" was derived from the Sanskrit "devi", meaning goddess (though this is thought to be an incorrect etymology).
Ayyavazhi: Akilattirattu Ammanai the source of Ayyavazhi mythology and religious book of Ayyavazhi says about Kroni, a satan like figure. He was sliced into six fragments and in each successive Yugas these fragments took birth in the world as Ravana, Duryodhana etc.
Types and approaches within Satanism
Philosophical Satanism
Largely considered to have been unofficially founded by Anton Szandor LaVey, with his creation of the Church of Satan (the first above-ground organization to use the term), Philosophical Satanism views one's self as the subjective center of the universe, and the highest aspirations and virtues are those which seek the elevation and improvement of the individual Satanist over others. Philosophical Satanists generally do not recognize a theological deity or a metaphysical afterlife (though this is not to say that one must not); however this does not equate to a life devoid of spirituality.

To the Philosophical Satanist, a person is his own god. He disdains rationalist, secular humanistic beliefs, seeing them as abhoring the existence of the supernatural, only to thereby promote a sterile life grounded in the 'real world' alone and sees them as working towards the altruistic advancement of his fellow man while neglecting due attendance to one's own gratification and fulfillment. Obviously, philosophically Satanic thought has had a long history before LaVey's Church. Though it was the notion of Satan as the conceited, self-seeking black sheep, acting falsely to his true position which inspired the title in spite of Judeo-Christian theology, which views Satan as evil because of these qualities.

LaVeyan Satanism
Main article: LaVeyan Satanism
This type of Satanism is based on the philosophy of Anton LaVey as outlined in The Satanic Bible and other works. LaVey was the founder of the Church of Satan (c.a. 1966). LaVey was influenced by the writings of Aleister Crowley, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Marquis De Sade, Wyndham Lewis, Charles Darwin, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain and others. "Satan", in the view of LaVey, is seen as a positive influence, while the "divine" actions of the church are to be mocked, and the mundane is held in the highest disregard.

A LaVeyan Satanist views himself as his or her own god; the LaVeyan Satanic rituals are quite similar to Crowley's magick, with an eye towards furthering the Satanist's ends. The LaVeyan Satanist maintains that those who find themselves naturally aligned with Satanism should not adhere to herd mentality and assume there is something ethically wrong with them, but should instead adopt an individualistic attitude, and consequently should strive constantly to stand head-and-shoulders above the so-called Moral Majority, and not hesitate to exploit their misguided and naive altruism as necessary.

Religious Satanism
Main article: Religious Satanism
Religious Satanism is often similar in outlook and attitude to Philosophical Satanism, though it is generally a prerequisite that the Satanist accept a theological and metaphysical canon involving one or more God(s) who are either Satan in the strictest, Abrahamic sense, or specially created to identify with or represent the practitioner. A Satan represented in the latter group may be entirely of the practitioner's mind, or may be an adoption from another (usually pre-Christian) religion.

Depending on the Satanists in question, this God (or Gods) may be any in a variety of deities, sometimes taken from ancient faiths; with common ones being Set of Egyptian theology, any number of ancient Mesopotamian Gods or Goddesses, sometimes Gods of Greek or Roman mythology (Mars, for instance). Others claim a largely original God, although it is usually said by those Satanists that their deity is in fact very old, perhaps from ancient pre-history and often being the first God worshipped by humans (though such claims are unverifiable at best).

Others worship a stricter interpretation of Satan: that of the fallen angel featured in the Christian Bible, though unlike many who see him as being evil as defined by the Christian Church, they instead believe him to be correct in his rebellion against God. All these faiths hold in common, however, with each other and with Philosophical Satanists, that man, and specifically the self are the highest priorities. This view is often supported by Satanists' view of the god, who is seen to encourage individuality and freedom of thought, and the quest to raise one's self up through means such as magick and similar to Nietzschean Will to Power. A common Satanic maxim to this effect is that, "Any worthwhile God would rather have a Partner-in-Power than a prostrate and grovelling slave."

One example of this would be the Abrahamic Satan, such as the Serpent in Genesis encouraging mankind to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, saying "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.", with the clear implication, coinciding with the beliefs of all Satanists, that mankind should know what is better for itself than any God which would forbid knowledge and self-government. Because of the common position that their faiths are in fact very old, or the oldest, Religious Satanists sometimes refer to themselves as "Traditional Satanists" and Philosophical Satanists as "Contemporary Satanists".

Setian Satanism
According to this sect, the Egyptian deity Set, is the real Dark Lord behind the name Satan. They have their own concept of the Black Flame.

This type of Satanism maintains that the Hebrews ran into an adversary in Egypt who was the Pharaoh of the Seti Dynasty, when Set was the principal pharaonic Deity. After the Pharaoh expelled the Hebrews from Egypt, the Hebrew Bible scribes wrote "Exodus", demonstrating the enormity of this event to the Hebrew people. However, there are apparently no Egyptian records to back up any of the Hebrew claims except a passing mention of the Pharaoh kicking many foreigners out at that time — not just Hebrews. Even so, the impact of this expulsion was large enough to the Hebrews to warrant their calling Egypt and its Seti Pharaoh "ha stn", the adversary. Setian Satanists theorize that "Satan" is a wrong or slanderous label for a legitimate Egyptian God, the God Set.

The practices and theology of the Set sect are very oriented towards cultivating selfhood. They reject the dissolving of the individual into oneness with existence, and celebrate the separation of the individual self from the rest of the universe. Some followers believe in Set as a real theistic conscious being that appears in revelations and delivers messages, while others revere Set as a more of a principle. How historically correct their picture of Set is might be considered debatable.

This type of Set-Satanism is a legally tax-exempt religion in the United States.

Sat/Tan Satanism
Main article: Sat/Tan Satanism

Sat/Tan Satanism is a quasi-philosophical/quasi-theological brand of Satanism which maintains both religious and non-religious philosophical influences, either inwardly focusing or outwardly. Sat and Tan are Sanskrit words meaning respectively "Being" and "Becoming" (stretching forth), and it has been called by followers often also Dark Doctrine or Dark Discipline Satanism. It maintains that before the universe existed, there was a vast Darkness which represented the concepts of chaos and night, and within that Darkness, there was a Flame or Light which represented Divine Right, or creative capacity. The Flame or Light flared up and spread to the uttermost corners of the Darkness, creating the universe as we know it. Sat/Tan Satanism maintains that today a theoretical "Darkness" still exists throughout the cosmos, and that while all life possesses the creative Flame or Spark of Divine Right, only those individuals defined in this article as Satanists recognize and properly nurture their own Divinity (in the Sat/Tan sense). Those who neglect it are seen as living in the Darkness of ignorance. As such, the movement may be at least superficially compared to certain forms of Gnosticism or Manichaeism.

An undoubtedly interesting note is that there are parallels between Sith religion of Star Wars and Sat/Tan Satanism; where The Force is seen as the Flame and the Jedi and their dogma are seen as living in the Darkness of meek or ignorant submission the so-called "Will of the Force" (the Sith believe the Force has no will except when put to proper direction by the will of the Sith Acolyte himself).

Satanic cults
Main article: Satanic ritual abuse

The existence of large networks of organized Satanists involved in illegal activities, murder, and child abuse is occasionally claimed, often by fundamentalist religious movements. Those claims have never been substantiated and are widely believed to be untrue.

Devil Worship
This section deals with the Satanism conjured by the Inquisition-era Church. This is the Satanism accused of baby-eating, goat-killing, virgin sacrifice, and general hatred of Christianity. These ideas were outlined in the Malleus Maleficarum, perhaps the definitive book on such acts. Ironically, the book was generally not accepted by the Church at the time of the Inquisition, but has gone on to be the template of modern Devil Worship [1].

In the modern world (and likely in the Inquisition times), there is no proof to suggest that such Devil Worship is practiced [2]. This said, there are occasionally reports of people (often teenagers) who attempt to emulate such a religion through acts such as killing small animals, or claiming to have made a pact with Satan or other such ideas. This is an individual emulation of the acts described in The Malleus Maleficarum, not any sort of widespread organization.

Other Organizations, Groups, Etc.
In the Ophite sect of early Christianity, the Serpent was praised as the giver of knowledge. Sometimes Satan was also referred to, under the names Lucifer or "the light-bringer". Some Gnostics claimed that the being declared God by Christians and Jews was in fact lesser being known as the Demiurge, whose name derives from the creator figure in Plato's Timaeus; a very few Gnostic sects identified this figure with Satan; others (such as the Valentinians) saw Satan as a subsequent creation of the Demiurge.

Some early Gnostic sects, such as the Borborites and the followers of Carpocrates, were accused of horrific acts, including the eating (in horrific imitation of the sacrament) of semen, menses and aborted fetuses. These acts were committed with the apparent justification of libertinism; given that the material universe was not God's creation, it could be put to any use with no moral consequences. Accounts of these barbaric acts are not held to be at all credible, as the accusations were rhetorical attacks against these groups by such heresiological writers as Irenaeus.

However, Gnostic sects were commonly more liberal in nature than emergent orthodox groups; for example, in viewing sexual congress as a good, even a potentially spiritual act, and in allowing woman priests and bishops to adminsiter sacraments. There is evidence that Valentinians performed a religious ceremony known as the Bridal Chamber, in which the physical union of a man and woman was viewed as an earthly reenactment of God's completeness; the Gnostic conception of the divine was as an androgyne, as opposed to the orthodoxy identification of him as male. Such criticisms as Irenaeus' may be the deliberate exagerration of these misdeeds (from the point of view of orthodoxy). The Order of Nine Angles (ONA) has labeled itself Traditional Satanist and considers Satanism to be an individual quest which goes far beyond the gratification of the pleasure-principle and involves the arduous achievement of self-mastery and self-overcoming in a Nietzschean sense, with the aim of cosmic wisdom. Their conception of Satanism is practical, with an emphasis on individual growth into realms of darkness and danger through risky acts of prowess. In addition, the ONA seek to change, and disrupt, society itself. They espouse human sacrifice, which they see as the culling of "opfers," victims who are chosen according to strict guidelines. The use of the term "traditional" by these Satanists (ONA) is viewed by some as improper because the ONA refuses to provide any evidence of an old tradition, countering that it is the duty of each initiate to work things out for themselves. In addition, it is felt that "Traditional Satanism" as a label applies better, or at least equally well, to parts of the gnostic movement and its modern remnants.

The Misanthropic Luciferian Order is a Scandinavian example of a Neo-Gnostic Satanic current. The MLO is a Chaos-Gnostic Order that "seeks the true Light of Lucifer through the study, development and practice of all forms of dark, gnostic and Satanic Magical systems".

The Norwegian Satanic Society, also known as DNSS, was the first LaVey-Satanic society in Norway and represents a more liberal or social-democratic Satanism, as writer Didrik Soderlind said it, compared to the more classic American Satanism.

Ordo Illuminatorum is a Norwegian concept of Satanic illumination, which is set up by The Norwegian Satanic Society and Norwegian Satanic Temple, also known as NST. NST represents the philosophy of DNSS as well, but is more involved in the process of interaction between Satanists. Ordo Templi Satanas is the social network of lodges throughout the country, thus making it possible to interact socially with other Satanists.

In early 2004, John L. Westbrook, a former Oklahoma politician told a Penthouse reporter that he had formed an "occult fraternity, to finish the work that the Temple of Set has previously botched." He then displayed a platinum medallion which he had commissioned that resembled a Mars planetary sigil. He has christened this neo-Satanic fraternity The Order of Mars. He said membership in his "fraternity" is restricted to those whom he knows personally and that his group does not solicit memberships. He also stated that this "Order" is named in honor of the Roman god Mars, whom he claims is closely aligned with Egyptian god Set.

The Sinagogue of Satan is an organization of the religion founded by Reverend Michael S. Margolin based on the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Free Masonry's definition of Satanism as described in Albert Pike's work Morals and Dogma. This religion is not based on those of the popular Satanists of our day, nor Hollywood and Christian propaganda, except for Aleister Crowley. The religion contains no dogma in of itself, and encourages its followers to believe in whatever they like, as long as they do not attempt to push such beliefs on others. The aim of this religion is the ultimate destruction of religions through the advancement of individual freedom and social responsibility. The Sinagogue of Satan does not promote self-indulgence (in contrast to LaVeyan Satanism), but rather self-expression balanced with social responsibility.

Another organization practicing in Modern, or LaVeyan Satanism is the True Church of Satan, (aka TCOS) which is an organization "based on the original principles of Satanism as it was founded in April of 1966." The TCOS is not associated or affiliated with the current Church of Satan or any other organization. They believe that "The Satanic Bible is the inspired Word of Anton Szandor LaVey and is the basis for any statement of belief in Satanism as a religion. The church subscribes to the doctrinal statement of The Satanic Bible and Message as adopted by the original Magic Circle in 1966...This church is comprised of persons who profess a understanding of Satanic Law." [3] They refer to their form of practice as "True Satanism", also called "Fundamental Satanism", i.e. basing their form of religion only on texts written in or derived from the orginal "Baphomet Trilogy" (The Satanic Bible, The Satanic Witch,The Satanic Rituals, with The Devil's Notebook being an addendum)set of books by Anton Szandor LaVey. They consider other texts, even those written personally by A.S. LaVey to be examples of Satanic Freedom, but not part of the Tenets of Satanism, or Lex Satanicus (Satanic law).

See also Process Church, Yezidis for groups that have been called Satanist but do not accept that label.

Satanic philosophy
LaVey's "9 Satanic Statements", a philosophical outline to defining Satanism, were as follows:

Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence.
Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams.
Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit.
Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates.
Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.
Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires.
Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all.
Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification.
Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years.
Matching these, LaVey also identified 9 Satanic sins, namely:

Stupidity, pretentiousness (putting on airs), solipsism (expecting others to give back to you what you give to them), self-deceit, herd conformity, lack of perspective, forgetfulness of past orthodoxies (i.e. accepting something as new and different which is merely a repackaging of the old or the discredited), counterproductive pride (ie pride of a type which undermines one's own goals), and lack of aesthetics.
Note: solipsism can also refer to an epistemological idea attributed to Descartes, suggesting that one person is the only one to actually experience existence and that all others are merely figments of the imagination of this individual

He further outlined 11 Satanic rules, which while not exactly a moral code, provide Satanists with general guidelines for living:

Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
When in another’s lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.
Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
Do not harm little children.
Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.
It is interesting to note that some of these rules appear opposite to traits commonly perceived as "Satanic." Specifically, proselytism (in this case, actively turning others to the worship of Satan) is strongly discouraged, and the prohibition of harm against children and animals contradicts reputed Satanic fondness for sacrifice (see Satanic Ritual Abuse), both of which are often erroneously associated with Satanists.

Criticisms of Satanism
Much criticism arises from the major religions, although most has come from Christianity. There has been both constructive debate and open hostility, with the latter sometimes stemming from the Christian countercult movement in books by Lauren Stratford, Mike Warnke, and Bob Larson.

The claim that Satanism is purely reactionary as a religion and philosophy, and as such can only be defined by its opposition to what is perceived as the hypocritical, stupid, tired, weak, and boring failings of mainstream philosophies and religions. It also draws its whole understanding of the meaning and nature of Satan or Satanic worship from the literature which it intends to oppose. Rev. D.R. Deinsen notes that Satanist writers of the internet sound like "enraged frustrated teenagers who need a target to pin their angst on and need one now." [4].
Many Satanists identify with Satan as a rebellious force. However, it is claimed that such identification relies on the acceptance of a supreme being, authority, or creator to rebel against. It is claimed that if one has accepted the presence of such a being, that only falsehood on the part of the will can lead to rebellion against it.
Christian theologians argue that it is impossible for a human being to indulge completely in Satanic evil, for they believe that all human evil is a corrupted attempt to do something good (eg. to further the gratification or security of one's ownself, even if this is at the expense of others). Even a hedonist attempts to seek that recognised as good, if only for himself. These theologians claim that only pain, confusion, isolation and disappointment can result when such attempts are not in accord with the laws of God (i.e. vices or sins).
Satanism is "philosophy light" and "rhetoric heavy." Anton LaVey’s greatest skill is said to have been that of a rhetorician. Satanism, so it is argued, proves to be an intellectually shallow glamourisation of human divinity.
The argument that "people need people". Some claim that Satanists misunderstand independence and that while individually, independence may make you stronger, it is impossible to be independently a god. They claim that declaring oneself a god, while beneficial for self-esteem, can lead to a denial of the reality.
An alternate, more down-to-earth form of the criticism points out that while Satanism usually presents itself as a necessary cure for a passive herd mentality promoted by mainstream religions, its emphasis on the merits of independence and individualism can itself lead to abuse of a different kind - and, according to some critics, it usually does. Due to its own individualistic nature, Satanism tends to be deficient in the social feedback and regulation that traditional religions often employ to correct their own excesses.
Non-Satanic Sects
There are many groups which are commonly misconceived as Satanic. There are two common definitions of a Satanic religion:

Any religion that consciously recognizes and worships "Satan," usually referring either to a "dark" deity (similar to the Christian Satan, though usually lacking the evil or unnaturalness associated with it) or a conceptual Satan, often referring to a so-called "true" nature of Mankind.
Some religions that do not follow the Christian religion or recognize Jesus as explained in the Christian creeds.
The second definition is most commonly used by fundamentalist Christians, and is the source of much disagreement about whether a religion should be considered Satanic or not. The most common targets of these claims are Neo-Pagan religions, such as Wicca and Ásatrú.

Occasionally, some Christian denominations or even Judaism and Islam are referred to as Satanic, based on interpretations of the second definition. Among these Christian groups are usually the less traditional ones, such as the Mormons and other smaller sects. Also, it is not unheard of for Catholics to refer to Protestants as Satanic, and vice versa, though this is more uncommon.

Another movement which is wrongly associated with Satan is the heavy rock and metal music bands. Although there are some music groups that intentionally use Satanic imagery for one reason or another, the vast majority of metal/rock bands have no connection to any sort of Satanic philosophy.

Bill Ellis, Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions and the Media (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000).
Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott, Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke Scandal(Chicago: Cornerstone, 1993).
Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible (New York: Avon, 1969).
Gareth J. Medway, The Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism (New York and London: New York University Press, 2001).
James T. Richardson, Joel Best and David G. Bromley, The Satanism Scare (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991).
See also
Church of Satan
Satanic Reds
Sat/Tan Satanism
List of Satanists
Conspiracy Theories
Demonic hierarchy
Left-Hand Path
List of religious topics
Sabbath (witchcraft)
External links
The Church of Satan
First Church of Satan{FCoS}
Satanic Reds
Satanism: Description, Philosophies and Justification of Satanism
The Temple of Set
The Sinagogue of Satan
The East Los Angeles Chapel of Satan
Moribund Cult
The Misanthropic Luciferian Order
The Embassy of Satan
Satan & Evil Spirits according to Quran
Theistic/religious Satanist groups and resources
Luciferian Gnosis
The Order of Nine Angles
The Syndicate of the Five Points
Islamic Concept of Satan with reference to Quran
Islamic Concept of Satan compared with Judaism and Christianity
The Norwegian Satanic Society
The Norwegian Satanic Temple
Ordo Illuminatorum - The Order of Illumination
The True Church of Satan
Forms of Satanism Edit
Traditional Satanism | Modern Satanism | Religious Satanism

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Vril is a word from a science-fiction novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton titled Vril: The Power of the Coming Race and published in 1870. In the book, Vril is a form of energy possessed by an extremely powerful subterranean race. The book was quite popular in the late 19th century, and for a time the word "Vril" came to be associated with "life-giving elixirs". Indeed, the still-popular English drink Bovril takes its name from the combination of the words "Bovine" and "Vril".

Some readers believe the book is non-fiction, and it has become associated with theories about Nazi-piloted "Flugscheiben" (Flight Discs), Vril-powered KSK (Kraftstrahlkanone, "force-ray cannon"), transmission rods that produce potent energy rays), Jesuit "spiritual exercises", and Atlanteans to name a few.

Contents [hide]
1 Vril Society
1.1 Claims in detail
2 Vril today
3 See also
4 External links and references
5 Literature

Vril Society
Several authors (detailed below) have claimed that a Vril Gesellschaft (Society), or Luminous Lodge, was a secret community of occultists in pre-Nazi Berlin. The Berlin Vril Society was in fact a sort of inner circle of the Thule Society. It was also thought to be in close contact with an English group known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. No verifiable evidence of the society's existence has ever been published.

There is only one primary source of information on the Vril Society: Willy Ley, a German rocket engineer who fled to the United States in 1933. In 1947, Ley published an article entitled 'Pseudoscience in Naziland'. Following a description of Ariosophy, Ley writes: The next group was literally founded upon a novel. That group which I think called itself Wahrheitsgesellschaft - Society for Truth - and which was more or less localized in Berlin, devoted its spare time looking for Vril.

The 1967 book "Aufbruch ins dritte Jahrtausend: von der Zukunft der phantastischen Vernunft" by L. Pauwels and J. Bergier, published in Switzerland, includes an account of the society. The Vril information takes up about a tenth of the volume, the remainder of which details other esoteric speculations, but the authors fail to clearly explain whether this section is fact or fiction. New publications appeared in the 1990s, by the German right-wing author Jan Udo Holey, writing under penname Jan van Helsing.

The Vril Society as described by these authors includes many elements common to conspiracy theories:

Hidden masters (the members of the Vril society and their antagonist, the Jewish World Conspiracy)
An escape by Hitler and other Nazis from Berlin to the South Pole
Flying saucers, secret Nazi inventions, and psychic channeling powers
Aliens from Aldebaran
Claims in detail
According to these authors, the Vril Society was founded as "The All German Society for Metaphysics" in 1921 to explore the origins of the Aryan race. It was formed by a group of female psychic mediums led by the Thule Gesellschaft medium Maria Orsitsch (Orsic) of Zagreb, who claimed to have received communication from Aryan aliens living on Alpha Tauri, in the Aldebaran system. Allegedly, these aliens had visited Earth and settled in Sumeria, and the word Vril was formed from the ancient Sumerian word "Vri-Il" ("like god"). A second medium was known only as Sigrun, a name etymologically related to Sigrune, a Valkyrie and one of Wotan's nine daughters in Norse legend.

The Society allegedly taught concentration exercises designed to awaken the forces of Vril, and their main goal was to achieve Raumflug (Spaceflight) to reach Aldebaran. To achieve this, the Vril Society joined the Thule Gesellschaft and DHvSS (Men of the Black Stone) to fund an ambitious program involving an inter-dimensional flight machine based on psychic revelations from the Aldebaran aliens.

In 1922, Thule and Vril constructed Germany's first flight disc, the JFM (Jenseitsflugmaschine) or "Other World Flight Machine", in Munich, for channeled flight testing that lasted two years. The project was led by W.O. Schumann of the Technical University of Munich, but the project was halted in 1924 with the machine dismantled and shipped to Messerschmitt's Augsburg facility, where it was stored for future research.Professor Schumann developed a levitation unit from the research, which was called the Schumann-Munich or SM-Levitator.

Members of the Vril Society are said to have included Adolf Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring, and Hitler's personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morell. These were original members of the Thule Society which supposedly joined Vril in 1919. The NSDAP (Nazi Party) was created by Thule in 1920, one year later. Dr. Krohn, who helped to create the Nazi flag, was also a Thulist.

With Hitler in power in 1933, both Thule and Vril Gesellschafts allegedly received official state backing for continued disc development programs aimed at both spaceflight and possibly a war machine.

The new RFZ (Rundflugzeug) or "Round Aircraft" series began in 1937, after Vril bought the fallow land surrounding the Arado-Brandenburg aircraft facility. RFZ discs 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 were tested there under Vril supervision while Thule was helped by special SS technical branch unit E-IV, which was tasked with developing alternative energies. Thule worked on a separate disc at a secret location in NW Germany referred to as Hauneburg from 1935 on. As such their product was known as the H-Gerät (Hauneburg Device) but this was shortened to Haunebu in 1939 once the disc's Triebwerk (German for Engine) was perfected. Haunebu I was briefly designated as RFZ-5 when Thule moved from Hauneburg to Arado-Brandenburg.

The Thule Triebwerk was a revolutionary EMG (electro-magnetic-gravitic) engine also known as a Tachyonator 7. It used a modified Hans Coler Magnetstromapparat (a gravitic free-energy battery) turned into a converter that was coupled to a Van De Graaf band generator and a Marconi dynamo (spinning tank of heated mercury). Once activated, the Triebwerk produced strong rotating EMG fields that affected gravity. The rotating fields also turned the dynamo, creating a reduction of mass at incredible Rpms.

Vril also developed its own Triebwerk by 1941 with the RFZ-7, which was re-designated Vril-1 Jäger (Hunter).

After 1941 Hitler forbade secret societies, so both Thule and Vril were documented under the SS E-IV unit. Vril also became secretly known as "Die Kette" - "The Chain", which refers to the mental links between their members. Vril had strong contacts with Canaris of the Abwehr, the Ahnenerbe (SS occult bureau), and worked with the engineers at Arado.

Both the Thule and Vril discs were built from 1939-1945. Thule produced the Haunebu I-III series of large discs while the Vril series were more concerned with resuming channeled flight. By 1944, construction of a Vril 7 Geist (Spirit) channeled flight disc was achieved, as well as a huge 139 meter long cylindrical mothership called the Andromeda-Gerät (Andromeda Device).

A special unit named Sonderbüro (Special Bureau) 13 was created by the Luftwaffe to "officially" investigate strange aerial phenomena over the Reich but "unofficially" was created to cover-up these reports of flight discs and flying cigars. In September 1944 a ME-262 jet pilot caught sight of one of the Andromeda craft and reported it. Sonderbüro 13 immediately tried to feign ignorance of such a device.

The Vril magic eye is a mythical Nazi espionage and reconnaissance device supposed to have been developed in 1945. The story is that Rolf Engel of Vril Gesellschaft Ing. developed a miniature Electro-Magnetic-Gravitic engine and installed it in a lightly-armored melon-shaped body about a foot in diameter. The body had a reception antenna, a small television camera, a weapon, and a telescopic arm that held another miniature camera and a microphone.

By virtue of its design and connection to Vril, the Magic Eye was to have had the ability to appear and disappear at will. Such a device would have been suitable for a wide range of military duties that included aerial recon, submarine protection, and especially espionage. While the main body of the probe remained invisible, the telescopic sensor arm could lower its other camera and microphone into our dimension for spying.

By early 1945, the story goes, Rolf Engel had performed lab tests with the power plant for this device and work was well underway on miniaturizing television equipment. The Hs-293D missile had televeision guidance and composite aircraft were being developed at this time. The Argus As-292 target drone had been converted to a remotely piloted vehicle equipped with cameras. These went unnoticed by the Allies and none were shot down. The difficulty would have been in the inter-dimensional travel and invisibility features.

There is no evidence that a functional prototype was ever made. The claim of an ability to travel in some inter-dimensional mode is similar to Vril claims of channeled flight with the Jenseitsflugmaschine (Other World Flight Machine) and the Vril Flugscheiben (Flight Discs).

Meanwhile, as the Allies advanced further into the Reich, Vril planned to evacuate its technology to bases outside of Europe, especially to a secret Antarctic base - Base 211, while their own personal plan was to evacuate their mediums to the stars by channeled flight of the Andromeda. They left in March 1945 and were never found again.

Vril today
Today the self-proclaimed government-in-exile of Sealand under Johannes W.F. Seiger promotes Vril free energy and also has started linking to Vril disc aircraft and history. This gives some weight to allegations, that the Seiger group has contact to Neonazis, especially the self-proclaimed Reichsregierung.

See also
Nazi mysticism
Reptilian humanoid
The Nexus (journal)
New Swabia
Nazi moon base
External links and references
From Vril to Ahnenerbe
Free eBook The Coming Race at Project Gutenberg
Laesie Works website, which hosts many photographs that claim to prove the existence of the Vril Society
The German Cylindrical UFO - Interview with a CIC Veteran
Self-proclaimed exile government of Sealand
Conspiracy archive, on the vril society
The Development Of The German UFOs From Before WW2
Peter Bahn, Heiner Gehring: Der Vril-Mythos, ISBN 3930243032
Edward Bulwer-Lytton: Das kommende Geschlecht, ISBN 3423127201
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Categories: Occult | Nazism | Science fiction themes | Racism

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