Hillary Clinton: Satan(ist)

Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. Or rather, you could, but somebody else beat you to it.

A column in today’s Washington Post surveys the past months of U.S. political propaganda and offers up this timely summary, just in case we missed it:

Before Time, Before the Earth Was Made, Before Matter and Being and History: Hillary Clinton (Lucifer, Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, Prince of Darkness, Satan, She Whose Many Names the Cats Scream in the Night) is cast out of heaven for overweening hubris. She is condemned to lie in eternal torment in a lake of fire surrounded by her fallen angels, or, alternatively, to run for a major office while female. For thousands of years she lies outside time, smelling of sulfur, before deciding to undertake the second option.

So there you have it, folks. Hillary (Hail, Mistress of Hell!) isn’t just an -ist, but the original Him- (er, Her-)self.* I have to admit: “She Whose Many Names the Cats Scream in the Night” is memorable. Though still not as good as Satanicviews’ assertion that his cat is God. Local, furry, real as milk in a saucer. The way any self-respecting deists should want their god.

katyweaver*Sad to say, Franklin Graham, son of his famous father Billy, won’t bear this out. In a declaration this last Tuesday (Oct. 11) that comes as close to Jehovah’s truth as we mortals are apparently privileged to know, Graham remarked: “Donald J. Trump has said Hillary Clinton was the devil, but I can assure you that’s not the case.”

In other news, standard Satanist straight male adolescent fantasies still abound. Hail Satan!

Image: Katy Weaver.

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God: Satanist

[This is a brief, irregular feature spotlighting characters and personalities — real or literary — offering Satanic insights and humor.]

“The Abrahamic God’s greatest achievement was convincing us he is not the Devil.” — Priscilla Vogelbacher. Hallowed Be Thy Name: Lucifer, Origins and Revelation. 2016.

Wikipedia notes under the entry for “God as the devil“:

In Christian heresiology, there have been historical claims that certain Christian sects worshipped the devil. This was especially an issue in the reaction of the early Church to Gnosticism and its dualism, where the creator deity is understood as a demiurge subordinate to the actual, transcendent God.

All right: for “certain sects” you know what word to substitute … How about MOST sects? And change that past tense to present for “worship.”

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” — Isaiah 45:7. Wow. He actually admits it … Not one of the lines that gets much traction in sermons. Kind of a problem, in fact.

hotguy1Here for variety and — as always with these images — for the pure carnal delight of it, is some male hotness. A good Satan-God image to play with. Maybe a metrosexual Jesus? Chat you up over coffee? Sex or salvation — you pick?

And the verdict on our (un)friendly neighborhood Jehovah-Satan god?

For his pure chutzpah over thousands of years, his demonstrated capacity for magical deception and manipulation, his gargantuan ego and his impressive success, the Judeo-Christian deity makes one hell of a Satanist.

Image: male hotness.

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Aims and Meddling

chaos-protocolsSome Satanists I know ignore magic. I can’t fault them on that choice: they’ve tried it and it fails their criteria and honest testing. They find its assumptions false, its method irrational and its results too random to justify the investment of time, effort and supplies. (I also know they perform magical acts nonetheless, without perhaps ever making it a conscious practice. If we survive at all, we’re already magical to some degree.)

I find magic a valuable tool, along with belief: for me, chaos magic fits my experience of a universe which responds to changes in consciousness that include those deriving from magical technique and shifts of belief.

As a Satanist and magician I also find I’m in inspiring, if mixed, company.

A defining characteristic of the most prominent magicians of fiction and reality is that they meddle. Dee, Crowley, Merlin, Gandalf, Morgan Le Fay, Bruno. Whatever the weather, they went out to remake the universe in a way that suited them better. We must do the same. Whatever the macroeconomic conditions, the magician must always heed the advice of Firefly’s Captain Mal Reynolds: aim to misbehave.

– Gordon White. The Chaos Protocols, Llewellyn, 2016.

Yes, I know: if you’re at all familiar with books from Llewellyn Publishing, you know their stable of authors delivers an exceedingly wide range of value and insight. That’s as it should be: in books as in life, it’s my place to judge for myself what I’ll look at and what I’ll think and feel about it and what, if anything, I might choose to do next. I reserve the right to be wrong. To set causes in motion. And to learn from my mistakes. These things also point out the original meaning of heresy: choice.  For me, White delivers value.

There’s no freedom without breaking at least somebody’s chains around my potential. How many of us voluntarily let go, even when another asks nicely? Breaking is the way to go most of the time. Besides, it builds spiritual muscle.

In his poem “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” the German poet Rilke encounters for himself a foretaste of this breaking free in a statue of the god, the Light-bringer to the Greeks. The poet hears a distinct message: “From all the borders of itself” the god “bursts like a star” into his consciousness.

So does Apollo “exist”? Useless question (certainly one for later reflection, if it ever deserves it). Gods matter because of what they do, what they are for us, here, now. For Rilke in that moment, he discovers, “there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.” Prophecy? Subconscious talking? Synchronicity? I’ll work with ’em, gods or psychological processes, as long as they give me stuff like this.

hotness10-1-16After all, often the alternative to taking change in hand and working with it, is to wait for changes to accumulate until they fall on us and break us, because we ourselves have become the chains holding back the change and growth of the corner of the universe where we sit, insisting on our limitations. Change may incarnate as a person or a circumstance, but it will come. Sometimes meeting the change comes down to riding the wave, or getting crushed by it. The path of wisdom says Ride!

Image: The Chaos Protocols; gratuitous hotness.

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Satanic Transformation, Hellfire and Alchemy

hellonwhSatan has no need of converts or evangelists. Life itself does the work, putting people through Hell.

Hell is transformation: here’s alchemist Dennis Hauck in his The Emerald Tablet* writing about the process of alchemical change and transformation of the self — thing we give lip-service to but often resist tooth and nail when they actually arrive on our doorstep and don’t go away:

The light of the True Imagination has as its source the fiery consciousness of a person undergoing transformation. These fires are fanned by an intense desire to seek only truth, and, if we do not ignite them under our own control, they will erupt by the spontaneous combustion of the psychological garbage we carry with us …

Only by turning up the heat can we hope to digest or burn away the unassimilated bits of thought (habit, phobias, neuroses, complexes) that block the flow of psychic energy within us–energy that can be more productively applied to fuel our spiritual transformation.

Psychological garbage: now there’s something I’m already expert at! This is Satanic initiation tailor-made for me, ready for me to engage it, regardless of “what I believe” or whether I’m even thinking about Satan or not. Satan is part of the fabric and structure of the universe, which dishes up change. Why wouldn’t Satan know how to work with it?! He’s spent eons living in just such a universe, learning and working with it, aiding those who do not fear to grow.  Why wouldn’t I be a seeker and practitioner of Satanic wisdom? And why wouldn’t it all be a work in progress? Don’t you hate those who stand proud and tall — those who claim to have life all figured out?  Give ’em a year or ten. Then check back in.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t learn half as well from an arrogant asshole as from somebody without an axe to grind, without an attitude to lord over everyone else.  Sure, I learn I don’t like assholes, but everybody learns that pretty quick.  And yes, we can learn useful things from anybody, even assholes.  But I learn from the atmosphere around someone who’s gone through transformation — their words matter less to me than the fire that’s purged them.  You pick it up — it’s a smell in the air, a taste of life smoldering around them with a whiff of sulfur.  The initiations of Hell leave a definite trail to follow.

The more unaware I am, of course, the more life can crash into me and leave me helpless to make the most of the opportunity all crises offer. Easier said than done? A thousand times yes!  Do I get off scar-free if I roll with whatever comes?  Nope, not from any changes I’ve experienced.  But it also depends on what you mean by scars. Sometimes the scars are part of the initiation. One look in the mirror at gray hairs coming in, one glance at the cancer surgery scar down my belly reminds me I can’t go back to life as usual. Things have shifted, will keep shifting. Even this hot ginger agrees with me.

ginger1But as a Satanist, I always have access to tools to grow from such experiences. Always. What I do with such opportunities, of course, is a measure of my humanity by almost anyone’s standard, any religion, or none at all. Do I survive, or do I go under? What we find admirable in a person is strength and insight and humor in equal measure. We admire the survivor, and we admire more the survivor who can laugh about it and not be an asshole about surviving. I look around. We’ve all survived something already. No need to think about joining this particular club.  You’ve been a member since you were born.

(No surprise that we see a harmonic of our admiration for survival in reality TV shows like Survivor.  Of course, we also like to see people make fools of themselves, and feel superior to them.  We get to hate and love vicariously, too–not as good as the real thing, but then we’re works in progress.  Satan’s a Coca-Cola god — a taste of the “real thing.”  Just the god you need for spiritual refreshment — only we call it transformation and — sometimes — Hell.  No need to wait for Hell after you die, Christians. You’re in it. It’s here.  It will change you. And Satan says, “You’re welcome!”)

And yes — a more common outcome of crisis than we usually acknowledge: nothing much happens at all.  So I need to get ready for the next time.  Because there will be one.  Life’s not yet done practicing on me.

*Hauck, Dennis William.  The Emerald Tablet:  Alchemy for Spiritual Transformation.  New York: Penguin Compass, 1999, pg. 181.

Image: ginger.

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George Eliot: Satanist

[This is a brief, irregular feature spotlighting characters and personalities — real or literary — offering Satanic insights and humor.]

eliot“The devil tempts us not; ’tis we who tempt him, beckoning his skill with opportunity.” — George Eliot

I love the twist in perception that Eliot captures here, placing the focus where it clearly belongs — on people. Here Satan is simply a force that humans make use of. We bring to the symbol or metaphor of the Devil our selves, our human needs, desires and fantasies. The function of the devil is skill or potential.

We’re the ultimate seduction: our need jump-starts him into acting. He’s unable to resist us. When we go on to blame “him” for what we do, we reveal how immature and fearful we can be. The only devils are human ones, walking around without horns or hooves. A mirror can tell us what we need to know about the identity of the Devil.

Eliot is the pen name of British writer Mary Ann Sands (1819-1880). For this profound bit of insight that deserves further exploration, she deserves the name of at least temporary Satanist.

Image: Mary Ann Evans.

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Fox TV’s “Lucifer”: Sympathy for the Devil

[Updated 10 Sept 2016]

Satan on the small screen: handsome, charming, and British. What’s not to like?!

tom-ellis-lucifer-fox

With the gleeful Tom Ellis filling the title role, Lucifer Morningstar is bored after eons in Hell, so he opts out to come to L.A. and open a club. His principal talent seems to be getting folks to fess up to their repressed desires and say what they’ve been feeling all along. Emotional honesty.

After a singer he’s promoted dies in his arms in a brutal hit, he pairs up with Chloe Decker, a hot LAPD detective, to solve the crime. Chloe fascinates him with her obliviousness to charms that work on every other woman he’s met and bedded. The Devil, we’re not surprised to learn, is a ladies’ man.

That’s the problem, say the million moms who’ve lobbied against the show. “It makes a mockery of the Bible.”

News flash, moms. Mockery? Hardly. It makes a thought-experiment into a police procedural with a twist. The Devil doesn’t belong only to Christianity, after all, and the writers really didn’t set their sights on alienating middle America where a wide swath of their viewership lives. They’ve got better things to do than piss off the religious right. And Protestants have been making a mockery of Catholic beliefs like the Mass, indulgences, transubstantiation, holy water, and so on for centuries. Turn about is only fair play.

The concept’s got promise. Here’s a chance to explore a suave and sympathetic character who, surprisingly, tells the truth at least as often as most preachers. Gently puncture the pretensions of our polite social consciousness and get people to admit they really do hate, lust, lie, envy and so on. (If this is actual news to anyone over the age of eight, they’ve got far bigger issues to handle.)

Make us laugh about it, rather than go all cross-eyed, hypocritical and schizoid. Bring the slippery, moist, animal parts of our human selves out of the darkness and guilty repression and into the light of consciousness. Lucifer: light-bringer, after all. A little honesty for a change. From the one that Christians call … the Liar.

Of course the show aims to entertain first and foremost. Success means advertising dollars and viewers. Maybe it’s capitalism that’s Satanic?

Occasionally the series, renewed for a second season, also asks good questions. At one point Lucifer wonders aloud to fellow angel Amenadiel, “Do you think I’m the devil because I’m inherently evil or just because dear old Dad decided I was?”

But that’s also part of the problem, say the million moms. “The question is meant to make people rethink assumptions about good and evil, including about God and Satan.”

Really? Re-thinking? Thinking at all? On network TV? Angels and demons help us!!

Notice the missing word: whose assumptions? Generic and unconscious ones? Biblical ones? Aging cultural metaphors that desperately need periodic dusting off and squeezing for freshness? Then again, if God’s an old man with a beard sitting on a throne in the sky, then of course the Devil must be a badly-sunburned dude with pitchfork, horns and tail. Evil, you know, the opposite of the supposedly good and perfect god who made him. Who apparently didn’t try out a beta version first, or bother in any other way to check for design flaws. Who refuses any responsibility whatsoever for his work.

Own your devil, god. He’s all yours. Like father, like son.

But why does the Devil spend his time punishing sinners? Isn’t that God’s work? The Christian devil wants people to mess up! Why then is he God’s jailer and janitor, taking out the human trash, helping to “clean up the streets”? Fox Network gives us multiple motives. The Devil’s acquired a personal interest. The L.A. detective’s hot, she’s a challenge, and the pilot gives Lucifer a stake in bringing criminals to justice that any self-respecting devil would care about: revenge.

Maybe ultimately what bothers the million moms the most: Lucifer himself is, in Christian terms, redeemable. He can grow and change, like any three dimensional person. Any being who’s more than a convenient scapegoat or cardboard cut-out prop.

Or to put it in non-moral terms: He’s not black and white, but a good human gray. A mix. In Lucifer’s case, a party mix.

Image: Fox’s Lucifer.

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John Milton: Satanist

[Updated 7 Sept 2016]

[This is a brief, irregular feature spotlighting characters and personalities — real or literary — offering Satanic insights and humor.]

“The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.” — William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

John Milton (1608 – 1674) was a civil servant, supporter of Oliver Cromwell, and author of Paradise Lost. You can find plenty of Satanic reasons both to admire and despise him for his choices and loyalties. He was a Tory conservative, a staunch Protestant, an active supporter of freedom of speech and of the press, and the author of a deeply religious poem that nonetheless gives a remarkable portrait of a sympathetic Satan. He was remarkably well-educated, some of it self-acquired, he held to his principles even as arrest warrants under the Restoration king Charles were issued against him, he went blind and broke, and he still kept writing.

brunette4For his advocacy of freedom, his contemporary William Blake’s observation above, and for such memorable lines as “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,” his toughness and his strength of will, Milton deserves recognition as at least a “temporary Satanist.” Besides, it would really piss him off. As would the image of hotness to the right arbitrarily appearing next to his name.

Plenty of people alive today also belong to “the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

Image: bikini brunette.

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Blasphemy is Good for You

[Updated 7 Sept 2016]

“I believe in the world-changing power of blasphemy. Human life, human freedom, human dignity — they all matter more than any sacred text. ” — Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Heretic. Harper Collins, 2015.

We often think blasphemy is what other people do. And if you’re not a fan, they’re evil, scum-sucking bastards. But as Diane Vera insightfully notes,

Satanists aren’t the only people who practice rites of blasphemy, nor are Satanists the only people who can benefit from such a rite. For example, some Tantrik Hindu sects have an initiation ritual involving violation of orthodox Hindu taboos. And, of course, in many parts of the world, new converts to Christianity are asked to perform a rite of blasphemy against their old religion, destroying their old “idols,” etc.

The ability of Satan (or of Satanists using Satan-as-symbol — take your pick) to reshape consciousness and experience can make excellent use of “the world-changing power of blasphemy.”

Sacred CowLet’s be clear up front: if nothing’s sacred for you, blasphemy doesn’t work. Its power rests, after all, in the destruction of and liberation from a formerly cherished belief, relationship, object, etc. Stomping on a crucifix won’t do it for you if you’re Buddhist; spitting on a dorje won’t rock your world if you’re recovering from a particularly nasty form of fundamentalist Christianity.

Fortunately, all of us have sacred cows we feed and fondle and which we’re deeply reluctant to slaughter. On top of that, we’ll often deny to our deaths that we even have any sacred cows to begin with. (Satanists aren’t magically immune from this particular psychological glitch, either.) So blasphemy remains a live option for almost every one of us.

If you’ve ever ripped up a photo of you with a former partner, or burned it or cursed the person under your breath (or to their face), or intentionally smashed a gift they gave you, you know firsthand the power of banishing and destruction and rebirth. Do it well and you feel lighter afterward. A weight has lifted. You might even be able to move forward in spite of a broken heart or a surprising burst of rage. Maybe even rebuild your ability to enjoy your life.

The physicality of such actions matters. That’s why e-banishings and an e-existence in general feel so lifeless by comparison. Unfriending somebody on Facebook, or deleting your Twitter account, just doesn’t cut it. It may be exactly the right thing to do, but by itself it doesn’t purge nearly as well as blasphemy can. To destroy the mental and emotional associations you have with someone or something, you need to physically trash it symbolically in some way. Ritualize the trashing, which is what a Rite of Blasphemy does, and you’ve simply added power and effectiveness to your actions. In such cases, symbol can be more potently real than “reality.”

sacredcowTheistic Satanist Diane Vera offers a very useful guide to Blasphemy in many of its forms– she could print it and sell copies, but blessedly she gives it away free! — for your blasphemy needs. She focuses on the usefulness of blasphemy for ex-Christians, but I like to extend it even wider, so that I can make use of its force to open up areas of consciousness that formerly were just pastures where sacred cows graze and crap and make my eyes gloss over and listen all milky-hearted to their delightful mooing.

No, as Vera points out, most Satanists don’t perform rites of blasphemy all that often. If you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Either the rite works to help free you of an obsession or emotional bond, or it doesn’t. It’s like pulling a tooth or removing a bullet: once is hopefully enough. (Unless your whole mouth is rotten, or you’re the most recent target of a trigger-happy hit-man). Move on already!

black-mass

In the past, when Christianity was a much more dominant force in society, repeated rites, like the Black Mass or recitation of the Lord’s Prayer backwards, might carry a magic charge over a longer time. You could get more mileage out of them, simply because people (including you) continued to feel shocked. Some of the Hellfire Clubs of the past relied on repeatedly scandalizing such social consciousness and working with the emotional charge and magical energy such rites can release. So you’re informed and armed with info on how useful such rites might be for you. Try one, then make your own judgment call.

Anton LaVey called such practices “ritual theater” and relished their psychological effect. In fact, atheist Satanists may well celebrate a Black Mass just as often, if not more, than theistic Satanists. After all, why not go with what works?

Images: cartoonsacred cow; Black Mass.

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Scholars of Satanism

modsatcovTry doing serious scholarly study of the New Age, Satanism, and fringe beliefs and practices in general, and you face significant challenges. In academia as elsewhere, you’re wise to follow the cutting edge if you want anything like job security. Be original, but stick with larger trends, say something useful for and about the majority, and you’ve got a head start on a career. Insist on fringe, and that’s where your career will often stay, languishing, withering and dying a completely predictable death. Professors, advisers, scholarship committees, universities, publishers all imply the same thing, or will tell you outright: “Don’t waste our time, or your mind, on ____ .” I heard this as an undergrad myself.

Why should a Satanist care? Because we can always learn more, because self-knowledge is an admirable Satanic goal, and because another set of comparatively objective eyes on our worldview may reveal insights we ourselves have overlooked, but which we can certainly use.

Add to a problematic subject matter the fact that funding for the humanities has never been generous, and continuing cuts mean scholars of Satanism, like the more visible English majors who attract most of the running jokes, must choose carefully if they’re to pursue their interests as a profession.

It’s no surprise, then: if you’re fortunate enough to actually have institutional support, as doctoral candidate Cimminnee Holt relates in a recent blog post, it’s much easier to study Satanism academically. She notes,

… the support I received was from people who know and interact with me personally—they have witnessed my work ethic, delight in teaching and helping students, involvement with graduate committees and events, and genuine intellectual curiosity. My point is that it’s not accidental support. There was already a certain amount of trust established between me and my department before I entered the PhD programme. This relationship is not circumstantial, but pivotal. It allows me to work independently …

Intriguing! To the extent that Holt captures a generalization about scholars of Satanism, we may note that they start to resemble some of our Satanic ideals: people of an independent streak who perceive that their own nature, identity and integrity may end up carrying them against the flow of mass consciousness, people who can actually identify and invest in worthwhile relationships over time, and people who value the freedom that results from conscious, active choice.

A second reason Satanists should care about scholarly study of Satanism is quite simply that a better-informed public will leave us alone. Fewer Satanic Panics, fewer attempts to indict Satanists for acts ascribed to us by an ignorant public and perpetrated by the mentally ill, or the fringe of our fringe.

Holt acknowledges, however, that even academia can bare its irrational streak. While most of the time her presentations elicit interest, intellectual curiosity and stimulating engagement, sometimes the subject itself sends even supposedly educated folks off the deep end:

At the dozen-or-so conferences at which I have presented a paper on Satanism, wherein I am a stranger to most, I’ve had the odd scholar behave in a combative and hostile manner during the question period, aggressively challenging me because how I describe Satanism directly contradicts their (mis)understanding. In the post-panel conversations, the objections are some version of these three things: LaVey really did believe in the devil; even if he didn’t, Satanism is by default evil and cannot be redefined; or my personal favourite, Satanism is an offensive [italics in original] religion and shouldn’t be studied. This type of scholar appears so repulsed by my topic, they cease all conversation. And once, even, someone refused to sit at the same breakfast table as me, declaring that Satanism was the “enemy of the church” and exposed the cross around their neck as a measure of what I can only assume was protection (against what is unclear, as Satanism does not view other religions as enemies, and instead views them as largely irrelevant—which is, perhaps, the more offensive claim).

Holt’s observations here seem to me to point to several productive directions for research. I know some of these have already been tackled academically, but they still have juice in them:

  1. How important is belief to definitions of religions like Satanism? Academics and others have already made the distinction between orthodox religions like Christianity, where belief looms larger than practice, and orthopractic religions like Judaism or Islam, where belief, while still important, often yields to praxis or actions. Do atheistic and theistic strands of Satanism differ as much as either observers or practitioners think? How does Satanic belief manifest in practice, and vice-versa? How useful are the categories themselves to an accurate description of Satanism? Is belief truly a tool for Satanists to wield at their pleasure? Is this in fact something new or a long-standing but fringe or underground belief? Is the intentional manipulation of belief the true and only Satanic magic that Satanists have? Is Satanic freedom the central animating myth of Satanism today?
  2. Can or should Satanism be “redefined” or redefine itself at will? What does the label or category “evil” actually mean for Satanism, as well as for the academic study of Satanism? What could it mean? Is its “evil” in fact of a very culturally specific kind? Does this cultural specificity limit or circumscribe possible futures of Satanisms (plural intentional)? Are Satanism and Christianity co-dependent?!
  3. If Satanism is “offensive,” how much does LaVey’s old truism still hold — that “Satan has kept the Church in business all these years”? How much does a sense of that offense animate Satanic pride and self-identification?
  4. To what extent does Holt’s comment “Satanism does not view other religions as enemies, and instead views them as largely irrelevant” stem specifically from the Church of Satan and not from emerging theistic Satanist practice and belief?
  5. Are any or all of these even the best places to look for ways to study Satanism academically?

I’ll be exploring this further in coming posts.

Image: Modern Satanism.

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David Javerbaum: Satanist

[This is a brief, irregular feature spotlighting characters and personalities — real or literary — offering Satanic insights and humor.]

“The number of the devil is not 666. That is only his area code, his number is unlisted.”
— David Javerbaum, The Last Testament: A Memoir by God

I know nothing more about Javerbaum than this quotation and the title of his book. But to me even this one quotation earns him a bright pentagram in Hell.

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