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Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism

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If we are to believe sensationalist media coverage, Satanism is, at its most benign, the purview of people who dress in black, adorn themselves with skull and pentagram paraphernalia, and listen to heavy metal. At its most sinister, its adherents are worshippers of evil incarnate and engage in violent and perverse secret rituals, the details of which mainstream society ima If we are to believe sensationalist media coverage, Satanism is, at its most benign, the purview of people who dress in black, adorn themselves with skull and pentagram paraphernalia, and listen to heavy metal. At its most sinister, its adherents are worshippers of evil incarnate and engage in violent and perverse secret rituals, the details of which mainstream society imagines with a fascination verging on the obscene. Children of Lucifer debunks these facile characterizations by exploring the historical origins of modern Satanism. Ruben van Luijk traces the movement's development from a concept invented by a Christian church eager to demonize its internal and external competitors to a positive (anti-)religious identity embraced by various groups in the modern West. Van Luijk offers a comprehensive intellectual history of this long and unpredictable trajectory. This story involves Romantic poets, radical anarchists, eccentric esotericists, Decadent writers, and schismatic exorcists, among others, and culminates in the establishment of the Church of Satan by carnival entertainer Anton Szandor LaVey. Yet it is more than a collection of colorful characters and unlikely historical episodes. The emergence of new attitudes toward Satan proves to be intimately linked to the ideological struggle for emancipation that transformed the West and is epitomized by the American and French Revolutions. It is also closely connected to secularization, that other exceptional historical process which saw Western culture spontaneously renounce its traditional gods and enter into a self-imposed state of religious indecision. Children of Lucifer makes the case that the emergence of Satanism presents a shadow history of the evolution of modern civilization as we know it. Offering the most comprehensive account of this history yet written, van Luijk proves that, in the case of Satanism, the facts are much more interesting than the fiction.


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If we are to believe sensationalist media coverage, Satanism is, at its most benign, the purview of people who dress in black, adorn themselves with skull and pentagram paraphernalia, and listen to heavy metal. At its most sinister, its adherents are worshippers of evil incarnate and engage in violent and perverse secret rituals, the details of which mainstream society ima If we are to believe sensationalist media coverage, Satanism is, at its most benign, the purview of people who dress in black, adorn themselves with skull and pentagram paraphernalia, and listen to heavy metal. At its most sinister, its adherents are worshippers of evil incarnate and engage in violent and perverse secret rituals, the details of which mainstream society imagines with a fascination verging on the obscene. Children of Lucifer debunks these facile characterizations by exploring the historical origins of modern Satanism. Ruben van Luijk traces the movement's development from a concept invented by a Christian church eager to demonize its internal and external competitors to a positive (anti-)religious identity embraced by various groups in the modern West. Van Luijk offers a comprehensive intellectual history of this long and unpredictable trajectory. This story involves Romantic poets, radical anarchists, eccentric esotericists, Decadent writers, and schismatic exorcists, among others, and culminates in the establishment of the Church of Satan by carnival entertainer Anton Szandor LaVey. Yet it is more than a collection of colorful characters and unlikely historical episodes. The emergence of new attitudes toward Satan proves to be intimately linked to the ideological struggle for emancipation that transformed the West and is epitomized by the American and French Revolutions. It is also closely connected to secularization, that other exceptional historical process which saw Western culture spontaneously renounce its traditional gods and enter into a self-imposed state of religious indecision. Children of Lucifer makes the case that the emergence of Satanism presents a shadow history of the evolution of modern civilization as we know it. Offering the most comprehensive account of this history yet written, van Luijk proves that, in the case of Satanism, the facts are much more interesting than the fiction.

30 review for Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    Exactly what I wanted--a clear-eyed, hysteria-free, scholarly history of Satanism, stretching from its roots as an appellation for Christian heretics and up through the death of LaVey, and covering pretty much everything in between (the witchcraft trials, Milton, the romantic and decadent poets, freemasonry, the French occultists, Crowley, the Satanic panic, black metal, etc.). Even one of my all-time favorite weirdos, the Reverend Montague Summers, got a decent write-up here. Going beyond the S Exactly what I wanted--a clear-eyed, hysteria-free, scholarly history of Satanism, stretching from its roots as an appellation for Christian heretics and up through the death of LaVey, and covering pretty much everything in between (the witchcraft trials, Milton, the romantic and decadent poets, freemasonry, the French occultists, Crowley, the Satanic panic, black metal, etc.). Even one of my all-time favorite weirdos, the Reverend Montague Summers, got a decent write-up here. Going beyond the Satanism angle, I think there's a lot here too for people interested in the links between art and political movements, as well as the psychology of believers in conspiracy theories. Unreservedly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Givens

    Children of Lucifer is everything I hoped it would be. Thorough, intelligent, calm. He makes no claims about subjective religious experience or whether the paranormal exists, he sticks to historical narrative. Speaking as a historian, his writing is magnificent. It’s perfectly clear without ever being dry, and he doesn’t pretend he has no personality or that there’s no humor in the topic. Whether it be queer/sexual history or other fringe topics like this, writers seem bent on making it as borin Children of Lucifer is everything I hoped it would be. Thorough, intelligent, calm. He makes no claims about subjective religious experience or whether the paranormal exists, he sticks to historical narrative. Speaking as a historian, his writing is magnificent. It’s perfectly clear without ever being dry, and he doesn’t pretend he has no personality or that there’s no humor in the topic. Whether it be queer/sexual history or other fringe topics like this, writers seem bent on making it as boring as possible in a bid for respectability. Luijk maintains professionalism, certainly, but he actually seems interested in his own topic, so it’s interesting for the reader too. That tone means I’m happy to recommend it for academics and a general audience, as long as you’ve got a little time. Full review/recap: https://hannahgivens.wordpress.com/20...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    Despite the eye-catching title and cover, this is a balanced and scholarly study of Satanism. Van Luijk’s historical research is breath-taking in its scope (perhaps a little too detailed for the casual reader), and certainly of little interest to anyone looking for cheap thrills. The author grounds the study with an overview of black magic practices that might have been around (but probably weren't) before the 19th century, setting the reader up nicely for a thorough investigation into Satanism Despite the eye-catching title and cover, this is a balanced and scholarly study of Satanism. Van Luijk’s historical research is breath-taking in its scope (perhaps a little too detailed for the casual reader), and certainly of little interest to anyone looking for cheap thrills. The author grounds the study with an overview of black magic practices that might have been around (but probably weren't) before the 19th century, setting the reader up nicely for a thorough investigation into Satanism in the 19th century and beyond. He explains how Satan functioned symbolically for many 19th century poets such as Blake and Byron, as a reaction against Christian dogma and conservatism, and representative of human liberty and creativity. Even the more extreme figures of the 20th century such as Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan seemed to be more invested in Satan as a metaphor for individualism and ‘otherness’ rather than as a real supernatural being who could be conjured up in bizarre ceremonies. As Van Luijk explains, it is reductive and unhelpful to categorise any religion as ‘good’ or ‘evil’. There are far more grey areas than black and white ones. I found the material on the so-called Affair of the Poisons and decadent writer JK Huysmans particularly interesting. Van Luijk takes nothing on trust, and his research suggests that, for example, it’s unlikely Huysmans ever attended a Black Mass of the kind described so vividly in ‘La Bas’. Although the author debunks much of the material suggesting that actual devil worship occurred on a large scale (or on any scale at all) before the 20th century (and not much of it even then of the lurid type found in pulp fiction), he is entirely objective in his approach when it comes to interpreting extant primary and secondary sources. The Satanism that emerges from these pages is not the virgin-sacrificing variety beloved of hysterical Sunday tabloids. Rather, it is a more prosaic affair, as various as its (alleged) practitioners and with much the same flaws (and, arguably, strengths) as more ‘respectable’ religions.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cola Rum

    I respect the research but the book should have been called a satanic skeptic...he talked as if he is immortal...he was not living back in those times of early satanism yet he talks as if none of its true...how the fuck does he know he wasnt alive...people have always been monsters yey he think that people wasn't killing people in the name of satan in the early days...he definitely dont know people I respect the research but the book should have been called a satanic skeptic...he talked as if he is immortal...he was not living back in those times of early satanism yet he talks as if none of its true...how the fuck does he know he wasnt alive...people have always been monsters yey he think that people wasn't killing people in the name of satan in the early days...he definitely dont know people

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Hanson

    A very thorough academic overview of how the concept of Satan-Lucifer-Devil has manifested in antonym social and religious movements over the past 200 or so years. Obviously most interesting during the periods of the rebellious romantics such as William Blake, Percy Shelly, Lord Byron and later Diabolic fin de siecle France. Well worth the read if you are interested in this specific topic or like me interested in research on antonymum social movements of resistance and rebellions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Grassé

    An excellent history. Recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cau Brovko

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ana Cagic

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

  13. 5 out of 5

    Activeinternationalweb.De

  14. 5 out of 5

    Savioto

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sonia Parodi

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Soren

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mark D Miller

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rod Dixon

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hadrian

  20. 5 out of 5

    Слави Ганев

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anabela Costa

  22. 4 out of 5

    H.D. Grogan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Keith Turner

  24. 4 out of 5

    sherry

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gleb

  26. 4 out of 5

    Appoline Piotrowski

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Layden

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dimirarchivist

  30. 5 out of 5

    timothy shepherd

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