PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE: REGARDING THE TEMPLE OF SET

by Magister Peter H. Gilmore
Order of the Trapezoid, Church of Satan

Throughout the thirty years of its existence, the Church of Satan has continued to expand while its character has undergone a number of carefully-planned developmental phases. In the process, we have at times found it necessary to eject individuals who have acted in ways that were not in keeping with our high standards for social behavior. We have also had a small number of individuals freely depart from us, finding our means too challenging to their false images of personal superiority. Neither types are ever missed, as the true elite of talented, highly-motivated, productive, creative, and above all independent individuals still find their way to us.

There have been those who would attempt to imitate us, but they usually discover that our shoes are far too big to fill. Short-lived spinoffs have included The Church of Satanic Brotherhood, Ordo Templi Satanas, Order of the Black Ram, Church of Lucifer, Thee Orthodox Satanic Church and so on. None of these has prospered or even affected the course of Satanism, as they have quickly collapsed due to the lack of energy or direction. One group formed by ex-members of the Church of Satan which has continued to exist, albeit as a small and fairly clandestine vanity organization riding on the funds provided by its high priest, is the Temple of Set. This bunch is significant only in that they continue to try to ride upon the coattails of the Church of Satan, and indeed even publicly claim to be the successor to and custodian of the Church of Satan. You might have come across some advertisements or writing influenced by these Setians. Don't be fooled; they are not in any way associated with the Church of Satan and their tales of schism are convenient diversions. Let us examine from whence this group appeared and clear away their false claims.

In 1974 C.E. the Church of Satan instituted its fourth phase of development. The thrust of this phase was to reorient the members at all levels to proceed on a far more independent course. Previously we had issued charters for formal Grottos which were small congregations comprised of Satanists in specific geographical regions. It had been discovered that these formal Grottos led certain members to confine their efforts at personal advancement to the realm of the Grotto alone, rather than towards the success in the outside world which is of paramount importance to Satanism. Certain members were far more interested in trying to gain elevated rank yet were merely competing in the Grotto's social arena. They neglected to develop their talents and forge ahead. Many other members were strong-willed individualists who did not mix well with other Satanists. Rather than functioning as bases for the development of Satanic strategies, these groups often became shields against true advancement, filled with huddlers who were solely interested in internecine strife. Not everyone involved fit this picture, but there were enough to make it obsolete as a system of growth.

The new phase stressed independent functioning, keeping individuals separated to pursue their own goals. If Satanists used their initiative to find their fellows and wished to informally create groups for socialization and ritual, that was most acceptable. But the momentum for the existence of these informal groups had to come from the social compatability of the constituent members, not geographical proximity.

This phase of isolation, which laid the groundwork for a much broader base for Satanism as a movement (seen today especially in the commercial acceptance of Satanic imagery in the popular Heavy Metal music business), was upsetting to the pen-pal and coffee klatsch conclave members, whom it was basically designed to ease out of the way. Michael A. Aquino, at that time the editor of The Cloven Hoof, had attained the IV° and was injecting a strongly supernaturalist bent to the Hoof's articles. Mr. Aquino had a history of creating documents which he claimed to have transcribed from superhuman entities. These include the Diabolicon (1970 C.E.), a series of statements from Satan, Beelzebub, Azazel, Abaddon, Asmodeus, Astaroth, Belial, and Leviathan, as well as the Ninth Solstice Message (1974 C.E.) which declared Anton LaVey a daimon.

Dr. LaVey who, then as now, had a firm grasp on the Church's tiller, began to implement the phase which had slowly been evolving over the previous two years. He had even outlined the basic concepts for this formal phase during the summer of 1972 C.E. in a letter to Aquino, stating that the social Satanists and their limelight loving priests contribute nothing to Satanism as a movement, and that they would fall by the wayside when they didn't receive the attention they sought by starting their own churches. LaVey wrote that he had far more respect for his underground clergy who were very productive in the real world. Aquino did not accept this, especially Dr. LaVey's awarding of priesthoods to non-esoteric, non-public achievers and thus he would no longer be privy to even the small amount of information regarding underground activities that had previously been given to him. LaVey was determined that the status of Church members should reflect their standing in the world outside of the organization. Degrees are not reflective of simple book learning and esoteric knowledge, but the actual application of Satanic principles towards personal advancement. To this end, the Church would honor values given to it in kind with degree recognition as would be deemed appropriate by Dr. LaVey. The achievement of degrees via written tests was not to be abandoned at this time, but this additional means of advancement was now open to the above-ground members. This was formalized by the new phase in 1974 C.E. and outlined to Aquino in May, during one of his rare personal meetings with Dr. LaVey.

Aquino did not protest this policy at the meeting and later claimed this alternate route to advancement as a public reason to announce a break with the Church of Satan, accusing Dr. LaVey of selling degrees. He wrote letters to his handful of pen-pal cronies, fellow mystics who had also mourned the new phase, and they too resigned to go off with Aquino and form their own group. Aquino had wanted to start a Second Church of Satan but was thwarted by copyright laws. Instead, recalling his readings of Egyptian history and mythology, he claimed to have invoked Satan (in whom he literally believed as an entity) and to have been answered instead by Set, the actual Prince of Darkness who, through a series of realizations in Aquino's mind, caused him to record as Set's answer a document which he titled the Book of Coming Forth by Night. This supernatural revelation supposedly gives him the right to supercede the Church of Satan. Doesn't that sound familiar?

Aquino would like you to believe that the entire priesthood of the Church of Satan followed him in departing. This is untrue, especially as there were many underground members, including priests and higher, of whom he had no knowledge. The Church of Satan was at that time, and still continues to be, a large and highly stratified organization with many discreet individuals placed in positions of power. As Orwell had envisioned in his classic 1984, it is not an organization in the usual sense as it is held together by an idea whose time has come, which is indestructible. The departure of less than thirty members can hardly be called a schism. This was instead a welcome housecleaning of an element that had become less than desirable to the future development of the Church of Satan. And thus the fourth phase functioned as planned and Aquino became one of those who, as predicted in 1972 C.E., fell by the wayside.

The ex-Satanists who formed the Temple of Set follow a path quite different from that of the Church of Satan, which has never veered from its dedication to rational self-interest, indulgence, and a glorification of the carnal and material. The belief in Set as an actual entity with whom followers may commune is in marked contrast to our disbelief in any external diety figures. They have a consuming preoccupation with rank and status within their organization, thus titles and medallions of degree level are eagerly sought by members to affirm their position in the pecking order of the temple's internal world (particularly evident at their conclaves). This is not surprising considering Aquino's background -- a boyhood steeped in military academies and in pursuit of Boy Scout merit badges. The Church of Satan retains its right to grant degrees, but these are still based on an individual's achievements in the outside world and his level of freedom from herd conformity and independence from forced interaction with the masses. Striving for fancy titles and rankings is not a part of Satanism. The literature of the Church of Satan is published and distributed worldwide to any interested individuals. The Temple of Set prints private literature available only to members, and some of it is limited to those of the correct rank. To further learn about these ex-Satanists, you might choose to contact them for information, but be forewarned that real Satanism is not hiding underneath their academic exterior. A worthwhile and informative study by an anthropologist who joined the Temple of Set is The Magicians, by Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D. (New World Books, 308 Spruce St., San Francisco, CA 94118). This will give you insights into their beliefs, practices, and social interactions.

We have dealt here at length with the Temple of Set to lay to rest their propaganda. They are not associated with the Church of Satan in any manner. We do not see them as being in any way significant to the future of Satanism. Dr. LaVey still proudly stands at the helm of the Church of Satan, the flagship of the movement he launched in 1966 C.E., and shall continue to oversee the forces he has put into motion. The Church of Satan is the foundry, forging the iron Will that shall continue to move the minds and hearts of humanity's elite who are even now reaching out to claim the future as their domain. They shall be the inheritors of our legacy as well as the writers of our history for the next thirty years, and far beyond.

[This article, in a slightly different form, appeared in Dark Lily #13 as a response to the misinformation being spread by TOS in England at that time. This file was occasioned by questions received by our various contacts regarding TOS and its curious, and dubious, claims.]