History of The Order
The members of Anton LaVey’s Magic Circle were intellectuals back in a time when that word actually meant something and carried some weight. They were worldly, sophisticated and successful, but they were also curious. They were intellectually inquisitive, and wanted to learn about things not taught in universities. So they attended Anton’s weekly occult lecture series.
When, on the advice of an old contemporary from the S.F.P.D., he was encouraged to create his “own religion” he seriously considered the proposition. After all, he already had a close-knit group of hardcore students, he knew what he wanted to communicate and he obviously had a gift of doing so. And he felt it would finally give him a chance to formulate his own brand of occultism, and it would be an amalgam of esotericism and a true understanding of natural law and human nature. It would take one step beyond the occult and reacquaint man with all those intrinsic truths that he’d forgotten – or chose to ignore.
It would be a judicious mix of occultism and cultural pessimism. It would blend Eliphas Levi and Hermes with Rangnar Redbeard, Malthus, Spengler and Spencer. The very concept seemed to represent a coming together of opposites. But LaVey understood that these seemingly opposed principles, in fact, complemented one another. That they were varying aspects of the same misunderstood whole. He fully understood that the element lacking from most so-called occultism is an understanding of material reality and how the real world operates.
In Judaism, the teaching of the Kabbalah is discouraged before age 40. It is recognized that a man must learn quite a few life lessons before he understands life and human nature; how things really operate. Only then is he truly qualified / equipped to deal with life’s greater truths and more elusive realities.
One aspect of the trapezoid for LaVey was materiality and Life Law. It was the truncated pyramid, the understanding of which could create the capstone which crowns it. The trapezoid inverted equates with the keystone used in architecture, and represents a very real principle of balance and equilibrium. LaVey once stated that one of the most important concepts in the Satanic Bible (and the most unrecognized) was that of the Law of Balance.
So when LaVey was trying to transition from a lecture series to a religious sect, he first chose to call it The Order of the Trapezoid. The Order was enthusiastically received. Participants were excited about the new Order, and had already begun conducting ceremonies with a nude altar beneath a huge trapezoid.
Things were going great, and LaVey was getting a lot of press locally. But Anton LaVey was a natural born showman and felt he could take it all One Step Beyond. And on a gut level, he knew that he “wouldn’t cross the street” to witness a ritual by something calling itself “The Order of the Trapezoid." From time to time LaVey would attire himself as The Devil in certain ceremonies, for purposes of pure psycho drama and to emphasize the diabolical aspect of his endeavor. And as he did so, he began to recognize what a potent symbol the devil was for most people.
For quite some time he toyed with the notion of changing The Order of the Trapezoid to the Church of Satan. Then one day the phone rang and it was a close friend of LaVey’s who owned the local wax museum. The man asked LaVey if he was coming to the costume ball he held each year, and if so, what was he coming as. LaVey said, “I’ll be there, and I’m coming as Satan."
The man was ecstatic, and asked if LaVey would perform a Black Mass at the event. “I’d be glad to do that, sure. But only if I can do it with no restrictions whatsoever. This ceremony requires nudity, and I would never do it with half-clad women. It has to be authentic.”
“Perfect," said the museum owner, “Nudity is good, and might just get us some great press.”
On the night of the event, San Francisco’s elite was in attendance. Though “The Black Mass” was billed as the centerpoint of the evening, people were mostly focused on chit-chat and cocktails. Until, that is, a nude redhead began to weave amongst them, eventually reclining upon an altar toward one end of the room. Shortly thereafter more nude women appeared, flanking the woman on the altar. After several minutes of allowing the audience to soak in the tableau (a taste of the forbidden in 1965), LaVey emerged. He held aloft his sword and shouted “Open wide the gates of Hell!”
You could hear a pin drop. The cocktail crowd had alas fallen silent.
In a loud voice that echoed through the hall, he called out:
“We summon thee, Leviathan”
“We summon thee, Azazael”
“We summon thee, Asmodeus”
And so on.
The crowd was spellbound. And this was a cross-section of the city’s best and brightest. If the Devil was a compelling figure to LaVey’s acolytes, they were all occultists, and had viewed it in more intellectual terms. But for an unsuspecting public, seeing this spectacle for the first time, the experience was visceral.
They were stunned. It was like nothing they’d every seen, or ever expected to see. For all intents and purposes, they felt that the man conducting this ceremony might as well be the Devil incarnate. He seemed the very embodiment of Satan himself. Mind you, this was in 1965, a time when the world still looked a lot like an episode of Ozzie and Harriet or Leave it to Beaver. And except for the odd beatnik, it was a place of wide spread conformity. For those in attendance, LaVey was obviously viewed as the antithesis of that world, and as a personification of the forbidden. And rightly so, because aspects of the ceremony were, in fact, forbidden by law at the time. Public nudity was illegal – an arrestable offense.
By the end of the Mass, LaVey could see first hand the impact that the Satanic spectacle had upon the audience. It created a total psychic imprint, the power of which was undeniable. If he could have this effect on an auditorium of people, he could undoubtedly replicate it on a much grander scale; likely a national or international scale. In that moment, The Church of Satan was born. And The Order of the Trapezoid mutated into an inner-order reserved for select members of The Priesthood.
Anton LaVey devoted the next six months to mapping out a blueprint for what The Church of Satan would be, writing the texts that would eventually become The Satanic Bible, and so on. Then, on April 30, 1966, he shaved his head in the fashion of monks and ancient Yezidi priests and declared it to be Year One, Anno Satanis.
Jung understood the power and function of archetypes, just as Joseph Campbell understood the power and function of myth. But LaVey had a deeper, more realistic understanding of both, and of how they could be manipulated; both to communicate intangible truths and to impact popular consciousness. It is a form of gnosis that goes beyond mere occultism.
When he first shared this secret history of The Church of Satan with me, I told him that he should write a book about it, or at least a lengthy essay. He had always wanted, he’d said in the early years, for Satanism to “occupy the grey area between psychology and religion;" and that’s precisely what he’d created. But he seriously doubted the public’s capacity to appreciate the true implications of what he had done. He felt that perpetuating people’s misunderstanding of him constituted a kind of camouflage of sorts: “From the very beginning, people imagined me to be a charlatan and a huckster; being an old carney, I like that. Because it blurs the line between fact and fiction. It constitutes a context for plausible deniability. Because if people had any idea whatsoever of what I really think or what I’m capable of, it would scare the shit out of them.”
And he was probably right about that.
Boyd Rice, April 29th, 2019
ADDENDUM: SCARLET MEMORIES
Freewheelin’ Frank’s first person account of the Black Mass at the Wax Museum
"My dreams go back to ancient Babylon, and the description of the sign 666, which is the mark of the beast; thus, the mark of a man. And furthermore, it is the mark of Satan. I feel nearer to Satan than the average human being can be. I feel as though I am part of him. I seek to find and know a lot of what no one has known yet. I feel as though I know things that no one else knows. Things that have no words. Thus, I’ll have to make the words up. They should all be written in scarlet.
One of the things that gave me a lot of the determinations I just described was a Black Mass I went to...which took place at the Wax Museum. In the darkness of flaming scarlet a magician performed a hellish ritual that dates back through thousands of years of devil-like ceremonies sacrificing a beautiful maiden. The people who witnessed this Black Mass were all of high social standing. It was no joke. One Greek lady, I can still remember, with her long reddish-like hair and her fiery eyes. I wished I could remember every word, word for word, of the ancient old tongues that were spoken by the magician who performed the ceremonial Black Mass.
(There was) an altar that the magician stood over. I stood behind him, entranced in amazement...then he drew his sword and thrust it through the maiden in the ritual of ancient times. And there was no blood, except in the imagination. Her eyes gazed upwardly in the smoldering cave, and the smoke that billowed from the weird incense. To my left, wax mummies were robbing graves. All the heroes of the night were there in the form of wax. Directly behind the Scarlet Lady was Frankenstein in the broken down lab set. To my right, a maiden in silky blond hair that I could smell, all of them reeking with lust. Beautiful women – and the magician was like a transformation of Death. Those who worked with him and the man in the long black gown, hooded – I’d seen before in dreams. It was almost as I could have called out his name for I knew him. There was no time to ever fix a stare on one certain thing. The creaking of a door and spider webs being spun to the hum of his chant...my lungs filled with soot, as if a sacrifice was being burned. Everything spun in a maze.”
[This was Frank’s first exposure to LaVey. A short time later, Kenneth Anger ultimately introduced the two, and he joined the early Church forthwith.]