In 1969, three years after Anton LaVey
had started the Church of Satan
in San Francisco, Avon Books invited him to submit a manuscript about it for publication. Anton had available a number of diatribes on various social/historical topics, as well as basic instructions on how to perform personal magical rituals, previously distributed to Church members on mimeographed handouts. This material was not enough to fill up a paperback, however, so Anton added an additional diatribe - an extract from an obscure old political tract Might is Right
by Ragnar Redbeard - and the Enochian Keys from Aleister Crowley's Equinox
(modified with Anton's own "Satanic" interpretation). The Redbeard extract became the "Book of Satan", Anton's diatribes the "Book of Lucifer", the ritual instructions the "Book of Belial", and the ritual texts & Enochian Keys the "Book of Leviathan": collectively the Satanic Bible
Thus from a "technical" perspective the SB
is most accurately seen as a snapshot of very early Church of Satan
social criticisms - this was San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury era! - combined with some inflammatory & mysterious occult filler material. Within a year or so after the book's publication, it was already obsolete: The Church was rapidly developing more sophisticated approaches to Black Magic, and 60s' social-confrontationalism was also giving way to the more cooperative, tolerant "New Age" climate of the 1970s. Nor did society seem greatly shocked by a book with such an impudent title; about the only objections to the SB
in those days came from Crowley/Golden Dawn pundits who were infuriated by Anton's further piracy of their own previously-from-John-Dee pirated Enochian Keys.
So the SB
enjoyed a modest, peaceful existence as a niche-curiosity more famous for its name than its actual contents until the 1980s, when a bizarre outbreak of Satanic themes in rock music and hysterical urban myths about "Satanic cult crime" combined to rocket Satan/Satanism
into the public media spotlight. Both Heavy Metalloids and tabloid television alarmists needed a book to wave and yell about, and this
was the one with the right title and appropriately-black cover! The SB
was now a pocket guru for rebels without any other cause - when it wasn't being "found at crime scenes", of course ...
In the midst of all this mania, Anton's Redbeard plagiarism was discovered & exposed, and a number of new scholarly works on Dee's Enochian system had taken away the SB
's "primitive mystery" in that area as well. Not that any of this mattered; the book had now reached the mythical status of an icon, and as such will cruise ominously onward before the eyes, if not through the brains of the Great Unwashed for many years to come.
In 1971 Anton invited me, as the senior Master of the Church of Satan
, to write a new Introduction to the SB
, which replaced Burton Wolfe's in all hardcover editions as well as paperbacks 1972-75. In that Introduction I compared the book to Robert Chambers' fictional The King in Yellow
, "a psychopolitical work that supposedly drove its readers to madness and damnation". I'd say that the poor old Satanic Bible
, at least as much to its author's surprise as anyone else's, has certainly gone a long way towards doing just that!