What follows is a serialized collection of thoughts, of memories, of philosophical explorations. Hellevation is a definition, a question (for you), and an answer (for me). In sum, it is an explanation for why I am a Satanist. I do not pretend to be an expert on Satanism, but I am an expert on me, on my experience, on the reasons why I am that I am. Ave Satanas! Hail Satan! And Hail Yourself!
CHAPTER 1 LIGHT OF HELL
I am Lux Inferni, Light of Hell.
I am that of fire which purifies, illuminates, and scorches earth and flesh.
I am that of lust, of envy, and of anger.
I am that of life and death, of the death of life, and of the life of death.
I am that of all things, and yet only inasmuch as all things are of me.
I am that I am, I am that I was, I am that I will ever and never be.
5.14.94 — The theater is packed and the air feels electric, full of excitement akin to the anxious anticipation associated with stage fright. But I’m not on stage tonight. Or am I? Chuck fills the seat next to me, next to his older sister. Her presence distracts me enough that I can’t make out what the dozens of electric conversations surrounding us are focused on. “Be cool,” I say to myself. We were lucky to have found three seats together, and as we sit there, silent, my imagination runs as far as any fourteen-year-old boy’s could in relation to being so close to a “hot chick.” Of course, I’m careful (and silent enough) to not convey to Chuck (or his sister) what I think about her, and no coming-of-age sexual escapade will follow, despite how (un)cool I’m acting as we wait for the movie to start. But soon, the night will be about something else.
The lights dim in the theater. The change in atmosphere demands reverence from the unruly crowd and, surprisingly, the once excited conversations turn to excited silence. The electricity is still there, thick, bulging, ready to explode, but no one says a word. I imagine that the rest of the crowd is like me—ready to swallow their tongues trying to hold back any verbal manifestation of their anticipation. Then the previews begin.
We make it through the first preview with our respect for the darkness, for each other, intact. But seconds into the next one, immediately following the first flashes of actor Christopher Lambert as his most memorable character role, someone breaks the silence: “WHAT THE FUCK?!” It’s part scream, part growl, and not just the perfect thing to say, but the perfect way to say it. In an instant, the crowd erupts in laughter and, once again, excited conversations. I haven’t yet seen (or heard of) the first two Highlander movies, so I don’t fully understand the reaction to a preview for the franchise’s third installment, The Final Dimension, but it’s still funny as fuck, and my anxious anticipation manifests in hysterical laughter. Everyone else is doing it, including Chuck’s sister. That’s our moment, hers and mine, the one time we will ever connect.
The reverent hush doesn’t return to the theater until the reason we are all here finally begins. Chuck, his hot sister, and I, amidst a sea of black clothes, flannel shirts, chain wallets, combat boots, and WHAT THE FUCKS?! are here to see The Crow on its second day in the theater. It’s an experience that I will never forget, and a movie that, upon the second time that I watch it in a theater, my uncle will call “too dark” for his liking. It’s also one of the many moments in my life that I will think about when I try to trace the long journey leading to me identifying as a Satanist twenty-three years later.
I was terrified of the dark when I was a kid. TERRIFIED. And this fear lasted a long time. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I finally conquered it by opening my eyes and embracing the dark—that which consumes—and the darkness—that which is consumed. But my fear was born again a year later (and only a few months after watching The Crow for the second time), as the head of a freshly made evangelical convert—my head—was being filled with not just notions of souls reborn, but also with tales of demons and the devil and dark forces all ready and waiting to challenge the legitimacy of such rebirth, to question my faith in it. Sure, I could walk down a dark hallway and sleep without a nightlight on, but that was only after a muttered prayer would spill from my trembling lips. My soul reborn, my fear reborn, my soul reborn in fear. I was terrified of the dark when I was a teenager. TERRIFIED.
6.16.17 — It’s after midnight, early Friday morning. I’ve been drinking, but I’m not drunk. Clear head, clear vision, clear decision. With the push of a button (or, the Enter key on my laptop), I will be a member of The Satanic Temple, expecting a membership card and certificate, along with a T-shirt that says “HAIL SATAN” on it, to arrive in the mail within 7 to 10 business days.
But this is nothing new. Not exactly. I’ve been here before—drinking late at night, alone, in front of my laptop, lurking on Satanic websites, about to push the Enter key on my laptop (or, the button). But I’ve never made the finger-to-button connection before tonight, and I’ve never called myself a Satanist (another connection, albeit less tangible).
I remember hearing about The Church of Satan putting on their Satanic High Mass Ritual on 6.6.6 and thinking, “That’s cool.” My son Dylan was due to be born on May 29th of that year, and I remember thinking to myself, “Just hold out one more week!” He did. I remember getting his birthdate tattooed on my arm in 2014, just below another tattoo that I got in 2006 to commemorate him. Why did it take me 8 years to add the 6.6.6?
There have been several periods in my life in which I filled my closet with black clothes. Wearing them oddly makes me feel more comfortable, more like myself. In fact, I have proudly been wearing explicitly Satanic-themed T-shirts for two years, now. I remember telling my wife in 2015 that what I wanted for my 35th birthday was the most profoundly blasphemous band T-shirt she could find (a Behemoth shirt did the trick). That same year I bought for myself copies of The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Scriptures, but not once did I call myself a Satanist. Why has it taken me so long to push the button?
Several people have asked me the question: “Are you a Satanist?” And I always answer, “No.” But this year—and this year especially—I started asking myself: “Why are you not a Satanist?” If I had asked myself this question before this year, the answer(s) would have been simple:
“I’m an atheist and don’t believe that Satan exists.”
“I can’t take The Satanic Bible seriously, because really?”
“The Church of Satan wants to charge me $200 to become an official member, and that’s just fucking stupid.”
“All of the Satanists that I know or see are white, misogynist, racist, far-right-leaning, masculinity-loving, and egotistical males, and I don’t want to be associated with pieces of shit like that.”
“I don’t know enough about Satanism to call myself a Satanist.”
But this year—and this year especially—I’ve learned more about Satanism, about myself, about others, and as I sit in this familiar space, on this familiar night, doing this familiar thing, I will finally do what I haven’t done before. I push the button.
The dark is defined by its relation to the light, and the light is defined by its relation to the dark. “The dark is the absence of the light,” and vice versa. But what if that is not accurate? Why can’t the dark and the light both be constitutive of the same whole? What if, in the words of Michel Foucault, “The nature of things, their coexistence, the way in which they are linked together and communicate is nothing other than their resemblance?”  Would the fear of the dark not also be the fear of illumination?
One Strange Night, 1993 — This is nothing new. Not exactly. I’ve been here before—a dimly-lit waiting room with the receptionist’s desk placed low behind a tall counter and the metal doors that lead to the unknown. I don’t have to wait this time and, for some reason, I can’t remember if I ever had to. The puff of blonde hair cresting over the counter produces a finger pointing to the metal door to my left and, as my breath shudders and my lips tremble, I walk towards my fate. I open the door—surprisingly light—and position myself supine on the conveyor belt behind it. The descent begins and I close my eyes.
I know the drill, and what follows is familiar: the cackling of witches, the fingernails scratching at my skin, the sounds of machinery begging for the opportunity to torture a thirteen-year-old boy, the utter fucking terror. But something is different.
“It’s just a dream!” I tell myself. “Open your eyes!” And I do. For the first time ever.
I’m at the end of the conveyor belt’s long, treacherous descent, now, and I force open my eyes to behold a small room with tall stone walls. The ceiling is so high that I can’t even make it out. Another metal door stands firmly in one of the walls, and as the echoes of the sounds that were terrifying to me just seconds ago fill the small space, I push my way through.
On the other side is a strange expanse of dirt floor, open black sky, glass bulbs lit along power lines, and a trailer. As I approach the trailer, fearlessly, I notice her—a middle-aged woman with long, stringy salt and pepper hair, dressed in a night gown and drinking a bottle of beer on a raised porch. I know immediately that she is the one, the witch’s voice, the scratching fingernails, the operator of the machine that has terrorized me for years in a recurring nightmare. But this dream is different.
I am thirteen, I am dreaming, I am conscious of the fact that I am dreaming, and after a brief conversation with some woman I have never seen before, which includes a proposition that only a thirteen-year-old boy who is dreaming and conscious of the fact that he is dreaming could make, I fuck her, and my fear of the dark is conquered by a wet dream.
I am Lux Inferni, Light of Hell.
I am the dark of light, the light of darkness.
I am consumption.
I am the fear that conquers, the conquered fear.
I am the conquering.
I am the contradiction of truth, the truth of contradiction.
I am the lie.
I am the image of reality, the reality of imagination.
I am nothing.
I am the other, the self, the infernal orientation.
I am that I am, I am that I was, I am that I will ever and never be.
- Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Random House, 1970), 29.