Invoking the Serpent

Invoking the Serpent: The Art of Persuasion and Invitation in Satanic Rhetoric

—The Messianic Machiavel

Most of us tend to live by the idea that Satan is a symbol of rebellion that we use to focus our thoughts and energies through.  There are variations of course, but it seems like that’s a common point for many.  This should not imply, however, that there should be only one kind of Satan for Satanists.  The non-Satanic public tends to picture Satan as a giant, evil horned guy (think Darkness from the film Legend) and while most of us don’t believe in a literal entity, we don’t exactly discourage these fearsome interpretations.  Our realm is filled with aggressively dressed, imposing figures who embrace the scary fashions of Satanism, and perhaps too often, take a high mannered approach to conversation.  Despite the evolution of our movement, Lavey’s goatee, Aquino’s eyebrows, and Marilyn Manson’s black lipstick remain the go-to images for most people’s image of what a Satanist is.  To be entirely honest, I’m guilty of this too.  I opt for a more traditional metal look: black band shirt, khaki shorts, tattoos, etc. myself.  Not to diminish the ways we choose to express ourselves, but as religious tensions increase in the world today, we need to be aware that there are other kinds of Satan we can appeal to.  Paired with these looks is the too common Satanist approach.  We tend to dominate conversation, and we’re aggressive. After all, Satan is the Accuser, the Beast, the Dragon; confrontation between Christ and Antichrist seems only natural, right?   While some are impressed with our antics, many are turned away. Let’s not forget his role as Persuader, however. Imagine a Satan who invites others to the table and tempts them to eat of the apple.  Using this approach will more fully engage others, and while we aren’t a group that tends to proselytize, we do live in a world that is still harshly against those who are different or outside the Christian dominated mainstream.  By enhancing our skills of persuasion and invitation, we will be better able to improve the culture for everyone.   In school we’re often taught to write “argument” essays, and while the teacher explains that the argument isn’t just talking heads yelling on a TV or computer screen, the object is still to win the argument, to convince the opposition that we are right, and they are wrong.  My position, however, is that at times, it might be better to avoid such a mentality.  Recently, more academics are coming to this mindset, including Andrea Lunsford who in her article  “Empathizing with Others” (2018) explains how the methods of invitational rhetoric were used to create a discourse between Trump supporters and protesters from Black Lives Matter (if peaceful conversation can be found there, it can be found anywhere). Her audience is Composition and Rhetoric instructors, but the concepts are certainly relevant here.  Confrontation is inevitable, but many conversations between Satanists and non-Satanists end with, at best, two people shaking their heads at their opponent, or at worst, threats/acts of violence. Once we invite others to our Tree of Knowledge, we may find that we gather more support for our causes than before.

What would have happened in the Garden of Eden if the serpent told Eve, “You’re ridiculous for following God’s orders.  Why shouldn’t you just give it up and join Satan’s army?” The event is never portrayed that way (to my knowledge).  Instead, he tempts her.  This temptation is in fact, what makes him [1] so terrifying to those of the Abrahamic faiths.  He flatters her, he impresses her (she’s never seen a snake talk before) then he leads her to the Tree of Knowledge.  Before long, without a harsh word spoken between them, Eve has eaten from the Apple and fallen from grace. Upon learning of this, Adam takes the plunge as well. (Paradise Lost Book 9). We should be like the Serpent sometimes. For example, imagine you are speaking to an evangelical who believes marriage is strictly between one man and one woman. The evangelical’s argument likely hinges on at least one of these points: this is a Christian nation, this is God’s will, or only the male/female union is “natural”  Below, I’ll take each response in turn, but be aware that every conversation and debate will be different.  Let this only serve as a basic framework for your approach.

How can we engage this person in a meaningful way?  First, begin by asking questions.  Ask them to clarify precisely what he or she wants the law to be.  Our first impulse might be to establish our own perspective right away. Our Satanic natures give us this confidence, but one is better able to control a conversation by asking questions.  It’s possible that through questions alone we can win the debate (see Plato’s Republic) but at the very least we can count on drawing our opponent into the open.  They aren’t expecting to be asked anything, as they too are used to the same shout filled fights we see in society today.  The question will likely elicit one of two responses.  One, they’ll be flattered by your interest in their perspective and become much more open to returning the favor by asking for your ideas (trust me, this can happen).  More likely, they’ll too excitedly explain their view, and in doing so, they will likely expose the weaknesses to their argument.  Also, keep in mind that you are inviting them to the Satanic camp; give them the opportunity to accept the invitation.  The Satanic urge is not something that only Satanists possess.  It exists in everyone, and if properly persuaded, many can awaken it.  Finally, be aware that even though you may be speaking directly to only one opponent, others are certainly aware of our debates, and they too can be indirectly influenced.

No doubt you’re familiar with the inadequacy of the “Christian nation” argument.  If not, I highly encourage you to do some research on this topic, as it will almost certainly come up if you choose to discuss issues like marriage equality with others.  Be careful with brushing off this argument too quickly, however.  When your opponent says this, he or she is not speaking from a historical perspective; if they were, they wouldn’t have brought this up to begin with.  Rather, he or she is speaking about their culture, a culture that is believed to be under attack.  If you use only facts to engage this argument, your opponent will only dig in deeper.  Instead, continue with the flattery and begin to invite them to your perspective.  Explain to them that you understand and appreciate what traditional and Christian culture has brought to the world.  You see the beauty in their heritage, but you hope that they understand that just as they feel under attack, so to do others who find themselves outside the dominant discourses of society.  Present an alternative: would they accept a legal designation of marriage that allows for marriage equality, if they were allowed to withhold actually blessing the union?  The married couple probably doesn’t want his or her blessing anyways, so they aren’t giving anything up here, and if it makes your opponent consider things from a new perspective, it’s a win.  If this is the turnout, you’ve actually accomplished something significant.  You’ve persuaded a Christian to agree with a Satanist, and as they have taken the first step of accepting marriage equality, they may find the next steps that much more tempting.

If they answer that this is “God’s will,” you may have a tougher time on your hands.  Anyone who invokes this is likely not going to be convinced right away.  You can, however, convince those who are listening to your discussion.  These debates do not happen in a vacuum, so there will likely be an audience of some sort.  Again, questions are your most valuable resource.  Ask them what they mean by “God’s will.”  Do it with honesty, straight faced, and do not come off as smug.  The goal here is to get them to reveal an indefensible position, which they will not do if they sense sarcasm and just go on the defensive.  They’ll likely bring up various points of faith.  Satanists tend to sneer at this, but hold your position.  Ask them something like, “Do you consider the Westboro Baptist Church to be a Christian organization?”  You may get different answers here.  They may say “No” which will allow you to bring up the ambiguity of knowing precisely what God’s will is.  After all, the WBC claims to know it, and probably offers a similar argument to that of your opponent, but their view is largely considered unacceptable.  In all likelihood, in order to avoid siding with the WBC, your opponent will be forced to reconsider his or her position.  Avoid the temptation to move too quickly here.  Rather than claiming a Satanic victory, continue the invitation; remind them that you do not have all the answers either, but that through the openness and freedom you see in Satanism, you feel that you can explore the possibilities.  Ask them if they would take that away from you or anyone else, based on something that really isn’t knowable.  Again, you may not be able to convince your opponent, but you will reveal them as close-minded and armed with only a flimsy argument.  While those in the audience are unlikely to sign up at their local Satanic chapter immediately, as the Satanic debates continue nationwide, they will find themselves sympathetic to our causes.  In fact, they may even begin to realize that in an important way, they are already Satanists, and seeing our banners and arguments will encourage their support.  The victory is subtle, but significant.

Moving on, if your opponent answers that only male/female unions are “natural,” ask them how they know this to be true.  They’ll bring up the usual arguments about only a male/female union being capable of producing offspring.  You’ve probably come across arguments like this before, so I don’t need to go into much detail, but just to provide a basic summary: ask them why people get married to begin with.  While procreation is certainly important to continue the human species, isn’t love a component of marriage as well?  In fact, according to their own Christian doctrine, Jesus said that loving god and loving others as you love yourself are the two most important commandments (don’t get too deep into Christian theology, as it gets murky very quickly, but something like this is useful)  You can find what is called “The Great Commandment” in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34. .  If true, then the primary function of marriage doesn’t seem to be simply having children; it seems that love should be the primary consideration.  Ask them if, considering the enormous complexity of this issue, would they be willing to accept that others accept this idea of marriage?  Once again, you may not actually convince the person you’re dealing with, but you will be making progress with those who are listening or observing the conversation.  Your opponent’s reaction will vary.  Some will be happy to see that you know a bit about their faith, but others will be angry that you use it against them.  Finally, keep your composure, win the audience, and know that your victory comes later.  Your invitation to Satanism goes beyond just the one individual; you’re inviting everyone to eat of the apple.

There are certainly some who will balk at this approach.  For generations we’ve been a group that has tended towards isolation, intellectualism, and obscurity.  It seems to me, however, that Satanism has reached a point that we can have a real impact on the world.  Not just for those of us in the movement, not just as an assault on the Abrahamic West or its polytheistic Eastern cousin, but on the worlds of those who find themselves disadvantaged by the oppression of theistic religion.  We examined the marriage equality debate here, but that is certainly not the only battlefield.  Reproductive rights, religious freedom, gender identity, self-expression, and on and on: these are battles that Satanists may participate in.  While I also enjoy scaring the Christians a bit, that’s probably not going to turn the tide.  To overthrow the mighty and lay waste their temples [2] we must learn to engage with our opponents and our audiences in meaningful ways.  As Machiavelli tells us in The Prince, Chapter 18, we must understand our animal nature and be like both the lion and the fox.  The lion can scare away wolves, but it is the fox who can avoid traps, or in this case, even set them for our opponents. Rather than falling into the habits of some of our Satanic forebears, who were too often aggressive and unwilling to connect with non-Satanists in a meaningful way, we should engage others through questions, invitation, and rhetorical strategies.  Think of this not as a way to gain converts to our religion, but more as a way to tempt society to eat of the Apple, and to begin their descent from their false Gardens of Eden.

  1. I realize Satan is without specific gender, but as the Serpent is generally portrayed as being male, I’m using the male pronouns here.
  2. I couldn’t resist a Rosemary’s Baby reference here.

 

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