The fourth tenet of Tenebrous Satanism’s Creed identifies zeal, wisdom, honor, empathy and perseverance as foremost values for Satanists. But in what sense is empathy “Satanic”? An intro to a three-part series…
Empathy (not) in Satanism?
Prior to the founding of The Satanic Temple (TST), many Satanists saw empathy as a virtue for Right-hand-path (RHP) religions. By contrast, Left-hand-path (LHP) religions – i.e., basically all forms of Satanism – tended to soundly reject the notion of “love” as a virtue. Both stances actually stemmed from valid concerns, though: the RHP wants humans to not harm one another via counterproductive selfishness; the LHP wants humans to not let themselves be harmed via manipulative guilt-tripping.
The typical issue of established Satanic denominations is that when a RHP religion says “love your neighbor,” this too often means “let your neighbor treat you as a doormat, or else you are a bad person.” This suggests, though, that Satanism’s true issue is with abuses of “love.” Could there be a a valid place for empathy in the life of the proud, individualistic Satanist, though? Should we treat any and all demands others place upon us as impositions to resist?
TST’s first tenet is, “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.” That’s one Satanic vote for compassion.
I suspect, however, that many other denominations’ Satanists read that tenet and think, “well that shows that you guys are RHP and/or just looking for social respectability – i.e., not real Satanists.”
It so happens, though, that Tenebrous Satanism agrees with TST that empathy can be understood as a “Satanic value.” Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness makes an extended case for this. Here on my blog, though, I’ll provide a taste of my thoughts on the matter.
The focus of this series of entries is not ethics, but narrative. A central question it explores is, “is there any plausible basis for claiming that Satan ‘stands for’ empathy?”
To elaborate more on what I mean by “stands for”: the mythological archetype of Satan offers inspiration to all Satanists, whether they “believe in Satan” or not. And as with all such characters, one may argue that certain virtues “suit” him more than others.
Some thoughts on this matter that I think are common to pretty much all Satanists include:
- Temptation of Christ, “pact with the Devil,” etc. -> Satan stands for gratification of desire (what Tenebrous Satanism calls “flourishing” and/or “zeal”)
- Leading an army of fallen angels against God -> Satan is bold, courageous and persevering
- Persuading Eve to eat the fruit of forbidden knowledge -> Satan promotes wisdom, critical thinking, etc.
Can you do this kind of thing for empathy? I assert you can – it just takes a bit more work.
Contents of each entry in the series
In the forthcoming series on empathy, I’ll be taking up several mythological precedents. The first entry will discuss both a well-known story (the Serpent in Genesis) and a lesser-known one (the Watchers in Enoch). I contend that these stories both illustrate that sometimes, the fallen angel behaves in a “loving” way.
The second entry will take up a more complicated case, namely Satan in the book of Job. This is a story seldom discussed in the context of Satanism. My take on it is not that Job’s Satan “stands for” empathy, but rather, that he reveals the need for empathy. Neither God, who is allegedly “good,” nor Job’s “friends,” are exactly great at offering real empathy to Job. Satan, one can argue, is the factor in the story who manipulates all these hypocrites into showing their true colors. He thereby raises the question of how one ought to act instead – which is where empathy can come in.
The third and final entry will talk about Tenebrous Satanism’s own “story.” That is, what is “Abyssal Darkness,” and what follows from the concept re: “Satanic Ethics”? What emerges from this re: empathy is closely related to my conclusions about the Book of Job. The central contention is that if one takes seriously that an “evil” force is behind existence, it is both natural and spiritually-mature to greet all beings at its mercy with empathy.
Empathy motivates such beings to try to make an otherwise-hopeless existence better for one another. Its absence, on the other hand, pointlessly multiplies misery. There are, then, utilitarian reasons why all conscious living beings ought to practice empathy – Satanists included.
This entry underwent ongoing edits as each entry in the series was written. A new title image was added and additional minor alterations to wording and tags were made on Aug 13/23.