That odd little institution the Church of Satan recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, so I have, a little belatedly, decided to see where the current management (who I now discover celebrated his own 58th birthday just the other day) is coming from… Gilmore has been part of the CoS for 30-something years now, and its leader for the last 15, and one of his achievements in his time was the publication of The Black Flame, the CoS’ first publicly available magazine; most of the contents herein originally hailed from there, and it’s a bit disappointing that the book doesn’t actually specify original publication details (though a few can be gleaned from internal details). Just cos I’m anal about that sort of thing.
Anyway, I haven’t kept up with the CoS much over the last decade or so, and until now I haven’t really been aware of where Gilmore has taken it. This book—which is itself nearly a decade old but I don’t think that makes too much difference (apart from charmingly dating some of Gilmore’s Internet references)—suggests he hasn’t strayed too far from the Doktor. I mean, look at the title; Gilmore notes it’s meant ironically, but surely it was also meant to remind you of The Satanic Bible. A small way of staking out his claim to follow LaVey.
And “follow LaVey” is, more or less, what Gilmore seems to do. If nothing else, The Satanic Scriptures only reinforces what has always been one of my major sticking points with the CoS: given that it’s based on a philosophy of doubt, it’s notable that the Church never doubts its own orthodoxy, and Gilmore is pretty sharply insistent on same throughout the book, which gives it an occasionally shrill and hectoring tone I don’t recall uncle Anton relying on (same goes for the paranoid undertone of some pieces, although since some of these things date from the height of the Satanic Panic, that’s probably understandable)… Though there’s also plenty of classically CoS chest-beating bombast, which leads to an outstanding moment of unintentional comedy when Gilmore laments that the Columbine High School massacre might’ve been averted if only Klebold & Harris had discovered The Satanic Bible and implemented Satanism in their lives to help them rise above the shits bullying them rather than, you know, go over the top like they did. Not unlike a Christian writer wringing his hands about those boys not having God in their lives. There are a few points where Gilmore writes in that sort of tone; that’s just the most egregious.
It’s a quick enough read, none of the essays are especially long, and I don’t suppose anyone without prior familiarity with the CoS will get much from it. After all, the True (non-)Believers are its real target audience, the casual reader isn’t really what it or the Cos is about (mind you, Gilmore’s classical music recommendations strike me as a very solid guide for pretty much anyone). As for me, it’s done nothing to particularly dispel any of my reservations about the Cos (particularly its far-right tendencies; really, Peter, if you’re trying to reassure people the CoS isn’t a hotbed of fascism, you’re doing it wrong, especially with that Totenkopf. I know it’s been redrawn to look less “SS”, but I still knew what it was. Don’t know who you’re trying to fool with that “Ragnarok rune” either); even more, perhaps, than LaVey’s original Satanic Bible, it left me wondering why anyone would seriously join the Cos for more than just cheap shock value, if even that little is still to be had…