A black-caped figure stares out from the cover of Time, the world's largest news magazine. "The Occult Revival: Satan Returns" announces the latest news, as though Satan has ever left us. In the news story that follows, Satanism and witchcraft are identified as substitute faiths with a large following amongst the bourgeoisie in America and Europe. The cults are found not only to be popular among hippies and easily identifiable eccentrics, but among college educated, split-leveled suburban-homed Americans. A definite wave of fascination with Satanism, witchcraft and other varieties of occultism is reportedly on the rise. It is as though a culture, which has succeeded for so long in suppressing its basic character, has decided to unveil. Paradoxically the veiled Satan on the magazine's cover is probably the first really unveiled figure to appear. He is the very image of ourselves staring out at us, our animal nature telling us, "Well, here we are together, spinning around on this planet and enjoying ourselves one hell of a lot." He is indeed the image of our own fiery world consciousness, which is now busily and systematically destroying the earth. He is not only the image of Kali, the great demonic spirit who rules the universe in this age, but the image of our own pathetic selves striving to be God.
Beneath all of the Satanic cults is a basic purpose: the deification of the human race. Both occultists and critics admit that it is the promise of power that attracts people to Satanism and witchcraft. Converts from traditional religions, primarily Christianity, resent the authority inherent in all orthodox religions. In Christianity, as well as in Hinduism, Mohammedanism and Judaism, submission to God is the basic principle. In this current age, however, no one wants to submit to God because no one is prepared to follow the instruction of the Godhead, which are found in all scriptures. In other words, we want our freedom; we want to be controllers, not controlled. It is this spirit of rebellion that brings all of us into material bodies. Our material bodies themselves, composed of earth, water, fire and air, are expressions of our will to control. Being subject to disease, old age and death, our bodies are mortal reminders of our rebellion against God. Satanism is an expression of our soul's desire to persist in attempting to control as God. It is no wonder that magic is intimately connected with Satanism, for it is through magic that we attempt to become God by mastering the world around us. Magic can manifest itself in a subtle form as in spiritual healing, prophecy and witchcraft or in a gross form, as in science. In any case, whether we attempt to master the world through science or witchcraft, we are expressing this same basic desire to be God. This is at the core of Satanism, and it gives rise to all the demonic activities of man.
We do not have to be experts in world history to perceive the Satanic nature of man's activities over the past five thousand years. Despite spiritual renaissances, the mass of men have been primarily involved in great power struggles between peoples and nations. These struggles inevitably erupt in violence, the greatest of which has been wrought in this century by scientists and politicians through the use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, the history of the human race has been described as being no more than the history of weapon development. The human story then seems to be simply the retelling of one sordid situation: The man with the biggest weapon survives on the planet a little longer. What a dismal story this is.
The word satan in Hebrew means "enemy" or "adversary," and its verb form means "to be adverse to," or, "to plot against." In Christian theology, Satan is the great enemy of man and of goodness, and he is usually, as in Milton's Paradise Lost, identified with Lucifer, the chief of the fallen angels. In the Old Testament, Satan appears as a serpent before Adam and Eve, and in the New Testament he tempts Jesus in the desert by offering him all the kingdoms of the world, if Christ will but fall down and worship him, but Christ, as the perfect man and perfect devotee of the Father, replies perfectly: "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." (Matt. 4.10)
Although Christ emerges victorious, the temptation certainly gives Satan a certain prominence as the ruler or viceroy of the world. Christ explicitly says, "My kingdom is not of this world," which implies that as far as he is concerned, this material world is Satan's domain. In Paradise Lost, Milton portrays Satan so powerfully that he emerges as the demonic hero, and beside him Christ seems a little pale. In other words, in this story of man, Satan steals the show.
What is known as the Satanic in the Judaic-Christian tradition has its counterpart in the Vedic tradition in the asuras and raksasas. The Sanskrit word asura means "opposed to light" and indicates the dark and demonic. In Srimad-Bhagavatam there are accounts of Krsna, or God, killing many asuras, or demons. When the great asuras in the universe discovered that Krsna was manifesting Himself on earth, they all came to try to kill Him. The first demon was a witch called Putana, who smeared her breasts with poison and got baby Krsna to suck them. Being God, Krsna knew her intent and, quickly taking her nipple, sucked out not only the poison milk but the life air of the demon as well. The witch fell down dead, and baby Krsna fearlessly played on her lap. Similarly, Krsna killed the demons Vatsasura, Bakasura, Aghasura, Dhenukasura, Kesi, and His demonic uncle, Kamsa. Krsna also subdued the great demon Kaliya, who was poisoning the holy Yamuna River. It is no wonder that Krsna killed so many demons, for He states in Bhagavad-gita that He comes to earth mainly to establish religion and annihilate the demonic: "In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium." (Bg. 4.8)
Man vascillates between two forces the demonic and the divine. In Bhagavad-gita these forces are linked to the three gunas of material nature, which are the qualities of goodness, passion and ignorance. Krsna asserts that there is no being within the material universe who is not subject to these gunas. In other words, a living entity is either acting out of goodness, passion or ignorance. As he acts, so also does he reap, and this is the law of karma. If he acts in goodness, he receives good results, and if he acts in passion and ignorance, he receives suffering. Krsna also states that if a person dies in the mode of goodness, he attains the higher planetary systems and gets the body of a demigod. If he dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth amongst men on an earthlike planet and labors hard for fruitive results. And if he dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom or amongst lower species of life (Bg. 14.14-15).
A man's faith or religion is also determined by the three gunas If a person is in the mode of goodness, he worships God and those devoted to God (the demigods). In the mode of passion, he worships demons, and in the mode of darkness he worships the dead and ghosts of the dead. Thus the guna or quality ruling the heart of a man can be perceived through his activities and religion. Those practicing Satanism actually evince all symptoms of passion and ignorance, as can be seen in their gospels, which are simply inversions of the sayings of Christ: "Blessed are the strong, for they shall possess the earth. If a man smite you on one cheek, smash him on the other."
It is also reported that the principal Satanic cult now popular in America invokes Satan not as a supernatural being but as a symbol of man's desire for sense gratification, his lust for a materialistic and ungodly life. The practitioners "look down on those who actually believe in the supernatural, evil or otherwise," according to Time. What the Satanists really worship is their own body and the paraphernalia that gives pleasure to that body. Most of the members of the cults are "almost banal in their normality. Under the guise of eschewing hypocrisy, they actively pursue the materialistic values of the affluent society without any twinge of consciousness to suggest there might be something more." (Time Magazine, June 19, 1972, page 66) Members are often promoted to different ranks on the basis of their material assets, such as bank balance, home, car, etc. Consequently this brand of Satanism is more Satanic than that which takes, the devil seriously as a personality to be reckoned with, for this brand is totally anti-spiritual. It deifies gross materialism. Turning to the luxuries of the world, it says, "Look at this! This is all there is. Worship it and surrender to it, and you will enjoy yourself like God." This demonic mentality is elaborately described by Krsna Himself in the Sixteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita:
"Those who are of demoniac quality do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. They are unclean, neither do they know how to behave, and there is no truth in them. They say that this world is unreal and that there is neither a foundation nor a God in control. It is produced of sex desire and has no other cause than lust. Following such conclusions, the demoniac, lost to themselves and bereft of intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. Taking shelter of insatiable lust, pride and false prestige, and being thus illusioned, they dedicate themselves to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent. Their belief is that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Therefore there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification. The demoniac person thinks: 'So much wealth have I today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemy will also be killed. I am the lord of everything, I am the enjoyer, I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am a rich man and am surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none as powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall make some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.' In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance. Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, they become too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and fall down into a hellish condition." (Bg. 16.7-16)
We could hardly write a more accurate portrait of ourselves. Five thousand years ago Krsna thus tapped the root of today's consciousness. This is not only American consciousness, but Russian, European, Chinese and Indian as well. It is the prevailing universal consciousness in this age of destruction and chaos. It is a consciousness geared to domination, whereby everyone thinks, "I must win. I must control. I must come out of this situation on top." Thus everyone is attempting to become lord of material nature. One of the Sanskrit names of God is Isvara, which means controller. The Satanic impulse, which is man's desire to be God, is the impulse to control.
It is our attempt to control nature in this age that has given rise to the machine and the demonic industrial civilization centered about it. Indeed, Henry Adams' historical theory of the virgin and the dynamo divides Western history into two epochs: that controlled by the virgin, the symbol of religious unity, and that controlled by the dynamo, the symbol of materialistic chaos and diversity. Nor is it coincidental that a Twentieth Century poet, Hart Crane, fuses these two forces in a single symbol of the Godhead: the Brooklyn Bridge. "Science," Crane wrote, "the uncanonized Deity of the times, seems to have automatically displaced the hierarchies of both Academy and Church." Science has become man's systematized attempt to understand the world and its purpose through his own blunt material senses. In its final analysis, science explores the cause or mystery of the universe through the observation of perceivable phenomena, and according to Krsna in Bhagavad-gita, this is not possible. Krsna is the cause of creation, and He cannot be perceived at all by the gross material senses. "I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent," Krsna says. "For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency (yoga-maya), and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible." (Bg. 7.25) In other words, it is impossible to discover Krsna, the primal cause of everything, simply by observing Krsna's energy. "All states of being be they of goodness, passion, or ignorance are manifested by My energy," Krsna says. "I am, in one sense, everything but I am independent. I am not under the modes of this material nature. Deluded by the three modes [goodness, passion and ignorance], the whole world does not know Me, who am above them and inexhaustible." (Bg. 7.12-13)
Man's attempts to become God have given rise to a number of demons, all of whom are easily recognizable. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna mentions four basic types: the mudhas, the naradhamas, the mayayapahrta-jnanas and the asuram bhavam asritas. The mudhas are like hardworking beasts of burden who try to enjoy the fruits of their labor by themselves and so do not want to part with them for the Supreme. They work hard all day like the ass, trying to satisfy four or five stomachs, a wife, and maintain a home in the suburbs. This is the gross fool who no doubt comprises ninety-nine percent of mankind. The naradhamas, literally "those who are low on the human scale," are characterized as totally ignorant of spiritual or religious life. Themayayapahrta-jnanas are intellectuals like scientists and philosophers whose erudite knowledge has been nullified by the influence of illusory material energy. Because their minds are dazzled by material nature, they lose sight of the truth. The last class (asuram bhavam asritas) are out-and-out demons (asuras) who actually oppose God. It is this fourth class to which the Satanists belong. This category also includes those who say that man is God (the humanists), that God is void (impersonalists), and that there isn't any God at all (atheists), as well as that undefinable class of word jugglers who claim that whether there is a God or not a God is beyond the point. Such people usually feel that they themselves are God and that life is a game which they have personally created. All of these are Satanists in the strictest sense, for they are all adverse to God realization.
No one, however, can accuse the recent crop of Satanists, warlocks and witches of lofty philosophy. They do not attempt to merge with the impersonal brahmajyoti, nor do they attempt to become one with the void, nor do they attempt any serious deification of themselves by undergoing severe austerities in order to overcome material nature. What is so pathetic about them is the smallness of their vision. These are the masses of men, who, as Socrates laments in Crito, are incapable of either doing great good or great evil, for they exist not on a spiritual platform at all but on an ineffectual material one. "Would that they could do me the greatest evil," Socrates said of the people, "for then they could also be able to do the greatest good." Thoreau similarly noted that the masses could not really harm him, for they could relate only to the body. In other words, their doing good to the body by honoring it or evil by killing it does not in any way affect a self-realized man who knows the distinction between the self and the body.
Spiritually, the masses of men are still ineffectual, and these so-called occultists, Satanists and witches of today are as banally materialistic as the average automaton. They do, however, serve one good purpose: They hold up to all of us the image of ourselves as we really exist in material consciousness. They hold up that mirror to ourselves which reveals us as our own worst enemy. "The self is the friend of the self, and the self is the enemy of the self," Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita. Satan is man as his own worst enemy, as an asura, as atma-hanah, killer of the soul. Of course the soul cannot be killed, as Krsna explains in the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, but the soul can be degraded when one turns from the Godhead. "The killer of the soul, whoever he may be, must enter into the planets known as the worlds of the faithless, full of darkness and ignorance." (Isopanisad, 3) The fate of our Satanic nature is given also by Krsna: "Bewildered by false ego, strength, pride, lust and anger, the demonic man becomes envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, situated in his own body and in the bodies of others, and he blasphemes against the real religion. Such persons, who are envious, low and mischievous, I cast back into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life." (Bg. 16.18-19)
If man today is seen as his own worst enemy, as Satanic, what is the possibility of his changing his image? Is it within his power to do so? In other words, is he created inherently evil? Is he irredeemable? The Vedic literatures place man's fate in his own hands. Although he is controlled by the Godhead, he has the minute independence to choose to be dominated by one of two energies the internal spiritual energy, or the external material energy. In other words, man has the ability to create his own karma."Out of the heart comes the issues of life," it is written in Proverbs. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, "That upon which one's mind dwells at the time of death that state one attains, being ever absorbed in the thought thereof." (Bg. 8.6) One's thoughts throughout life influence one's thought at death: in other words, we become like we think. He who is always thinking of Krsna in Krsna consciousness will attain a state like Krsna's. This is promised by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita: "Anyone who quits his body, at the end of life, remembering Me, attains immediately to My nature, and there is no doubt of this." (Bg. 8.5)
Much of the blame for man's Satanic image is now being placed at the altar of traditional Christianity. Men in another age would have turned to the church for relief from their spiritual anxieties and for the much needed mystical element in life. Unfortunately, today the church has become identified with a mundane power. In short, it is as much a part of the establishment as the Bank of America. The youth especially distrust orthodox religions, feeling that the churches have betrayed the messages of their great founders who have always pointed away from world consciousness to the spiritual world beyond. Because man's desire for the spiritual demands satisfaction, he turns from orthodox religion to occultism, Satanism and witchcraft. In a sense, the occult revival is a response to the failure of science and human reason to supply a purpose for living. We cannot live as men, as human beings, without a spiritual goal; we can only live as animals. This Krsna consciousness movement is therefore supplying an alternative a scientific and proven path to spiritual life. Simply by hearing the pure sound vibrations of Bhagavad-gita, one can understand the nature of Yogesvara, the master of all mystic powers, Sri Krsna. Bhagavad-gita is the song of God sung to man in answer to all of man's questions regarding existence. It sheds light on God Himself and on man's relation to God. It tells man who he is and where he is going, and by it man can emerge as his own best friend. The self is the friend of the self when he listens to that sublime song, which coaxes: "Give up all types of religion and just surrender unto Me. I will protect you from all sins. You have nothing to fear." (Bg. 18.66)
The philosophy of Krsna consciousness does not maintain that the apparent nature of man is evil. Quite the contrary according to Vedic literatures, man is originally God conscious and divine. In reality, the living entity, which is every soul, belongs to the superior or eternal energy of Krsna, but somehow or other, due to a desire to dominate or to be God, he has fallen into contact with material nature, or the inferior energy. Although due to this association man may appear demonic, in truth his dormant God consciousness need only be awakened for him to return to his original nature. Actually we are not at home in the realm of evil, and consequently these popular Satanic cults tend to use the devil for a type of perverse amusement. In scripture, however, Satan has traditionally used men for his own dark purposes. It may be concluded therefore that the Satan of today is not a scriptural Satan at all but a Satan created by man himself to justify man's own dark purposes. "If we fully believed in demons," one sociologist wrote, "we certainly would not want to call them up."
Since the viceroy of evil is not a Satan who is exterior to man, the burden of evil is placed on the back of man himself, for it is man who is responsible for his own demonic desire to be God. Satan returns indeed, as the attempt of man to deify himself. The efforts of man to conquer the universe instead of learn from it are unfortunately bearing fruit. Now man is doubting his very ability to survive on this planet, and that concern has given rise to today's ecology movement. Ecologists are concerned with the state of the world because they are aware of the principles of karma: The exploiters will in turn be exploited. We sow what we reap, and if we sow destruction, we will also reap it. When the Satanists masquerade as lizards, wolves, pigs and goats, they are simply indicating the type of body they have chosen to take their next time around.
Like children, we stand before the mirror of the universe and make faces. As these faces are substitutes of our real image, Satanism and witchcraft are but substitute faiths, distorted images of the soul's yearnings. Krsna, or God, by definition is all-attractive. When He appears, He appears as the radiance of thousands of suns. How, then, are the powers of darkness to prevail? In the dark, a man may imagine many things, and he may see himself as many things, but the light destroys his hallucinations. The words of Bhagavad-gita emanate a light that is eternal, and it is the wise man who bathes in it. Beside the still and reflective waters of Walden, Henry Thoreau wrote: "In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conception."
The Upanishadic scriptures have been likened unto a cow, Krsna a cowherd boy who milks the cow, and Bhagavad-gita as the milk which is the essence of the Upanisads. The wise man is he who drinks that milk. If we but take milk from that smiling Boy, our souls will be both nourished and satisfied. Because we are used to poison, the milk may seem poisonous in the beginning, but as we drink, we will begin to taste its nectar.