To expand on my earlier comments on Satanic symbolism in Thelemic ritual,
and their relevance to the question of whether Thelema is a form of
Satanism under some reasonable definition of that word.
You ought to get a copy of "Magick in Theory and Practice" if you're
interested in the issue. Crowley's ritual and meditative instructions
were his best writing, possibly because they dealt with what he knew best.
It's because of the power and importance of these instructions that I was
willing to overlook his appalling right-wing politics and cite Crowley
as a source in Twilight Crossing; LaVey and Aquino have made no
contributions that measure up to these.
I'm going to track through the various Liberi in Appendix VI, "A Few
Principal Rituals", in order.
Grimorium Sanctissimum. The O.T.O./A.'.A.'. sex magic expressed in the
form of a Black Mass, with a naked virgin as the altar.
The Star Ruby. Therion and Babalon, who are the Beast and the Scarlet
Woman from the Apocalypse of John, and who are explicitly Satanic symbols.
(The Star Ruby is the Thelemic recension of the Lesser Banishing Ritual
of the Pentagram.)
The Star Sapphire. Set, a very close Satanic cognate, and Baphomet,
the demon supposedly worshipped by the Templars.
The Mass of the Phoenix. The magician carves his or her breast with
the Mark of the Beast, soaks the blood into a cake, and eats it.
Liber V vel Reguli. "Being the Ritual of the Mark of the Beast".
The Beast 666, Therion, Babalon, Averse Pentagrams, "Saturn or Satan
is exalted in the House of Venus or Astarte", "the Father-Mother
Set-Isis", and so on.
The Gnostic Mass. Chaos, Babalon, Baphomet, Abrasax, Therion, Simon
Magus, and another reclaiming of the Black Mass with its naked virgin
on the altar. (The G.S. form above is more adapted to the ceremonial
use of two people, while this form is for the puhblic and is veiled
with a cloak of symbolism.) Interestingly, something very like this
ritual may have a great deal to do with our general conception of the
Black Mass, coming from the Star Chamber affair in France. It is
unclear how much of the accusations were exagerrated and brought into
line with the Inquisitional mythology, and how much was an actual
"amatory mass" as some of the sources refer to it.
This ends the appendix containing the principal Thelemic rituals, with
the exception of Liber Samekh. That is so important that it receives
its own appendix, IV. As you know, the emphasis of Liber Samekh on
Satan is intense. It also exalts the Beast and the Scarlet Woman yet
again. This is the ritual of "the Attainment of the Knowledge and
Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel" or Higher Self; in Crowley's
case, he believed this "devil or angel" to be named Aiwaz or Aiwass,
and to have delivered the Book of the Law, the foundation of Thelema.
I have not mentioned the constant repetition of the Serpent symbol,
which for Crowley was interpreted along the lines of Genesis -- or an
anti-Genesis which reclaimed the pagan symbol demonized in the Hebrew
myth. Someone could object, after all, that Serpent-worship is hardly
confined to Satanism; we have to see how much Crowley explicitly inverted
the tail of the Bible before we can know certainly that he did the same
with the head. So the Serpent or Snake has little evidentiary value
in itself, except where it is very plainly a reference to Genesis, as
in "I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge" in the Book of the Law.
As we can see, there is not one Thelemic ritual, among those Crowley
thought most important, which is lacking in Satanic symbols.
Now, we should also consider Appendix VII, "A Few of the Principal
Instructions Authorised by the A.'.A.'." These are much less Satanic
by and large. Many of them have no Satanic references worth mentioning,
such as the Yogic instructions of Liber HHH, Liber E, and Liber RV,
and the Golden Dawn derived ceremonial magick practices of Liber O,
Liber Yod, Liber Resh, and Liber A. Similarly for the past-life recall
practice (perhaps Theosophical?) of Liber Thisharb and the penultimate
practice of Liber B vel Magi. Yet there are other works in the same
appendix which contain notable Satanic symbolism, such as Liber Astarte,
Liber III, Liber Cheth, and Liber A'ash.
The interesting thing about the instructions of this category is that,
for the most part, they are not particularly Thelemic either. There is
little mention of the Thelemic trinity of Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit,
or of the Book of the Law, or of the word Thelema, or "Do what thou wilt"
or its cognates such as "the law of liberty". Where these do occur, they
are usually in passing rather than central to the instruction; and in
nearly every case, the degree of Satanic symbolism is proportional to
the degree of Thelemic symbolism.
That is, there is hardly a book that contains noteworthy Satanic symbolism
that does not also contain Thelemic symbolism of roughly equal note, and
vice versa. The books which don't contain one rarely contain the other.
Liber A vel Armorum could be taken as a counterexample, but even there
the quote from the Book of the Law is merely an opening clause having
no import to the teaching in itself; it is a single sentence stating
Crowley's authority to present the book. If it were omitted, it would
have no effect on the instruction of how to construct elemental weapons.
It's of no more significance than the mention of Typhon in Liber O.
In Liber Astarte and Liber III, the Thelemic and the Satanic symbolism
are both used in passing, almost as afterthoughts. (Astarte also contains
some of the anti-Satanic symbolism that Crowley sometimes uses; the
Thelemic devil is named Choronzon, and here he is presented as leading
the aspirant astray.) In Astarte, the little Satanic symbolism consists
of a reference to Babalon, which is also Thelemic symbolism; the only
other Thelemic references are to Choronzon and a single short clause
(out of fifty clauses) which urges the use of Thelemic books and aphorisms
in the practice. In Liber III, the Thelemic mythology is solely in an
opening benediction which (once again) could easily be omitted without
having the slightest import to the meditation practice, while the Satanic
symbol of "Cerebus, the great Beast of Hell" is almost as unimportant.
(Is it even Satanic at all? some might ask. After all, Cerebus is Greek.
Indeed, if Crowley had not craftily used the phrase "the great Beast"
there might be some doubt under a restrictive definition of Satanism.
The Twilight Crossing definition of Satanism as the reclamation of
demonized mthological figures would include it even without that
phrase, but there is simply no way that Crowley used the phrase "the
great Beast" except as an explicit reference to the demon of Revelation.
Crowley's "Cerebus, the great Beast of Hell" has a double meaning, both
of which are Satanic under the Twilight Crossing definition, and one of
which is Satanic even under the overly restrictive definition preferred
Liber Cheth and Liber A'ash are the only books of the category which are
aggressively either Satanic or Thelemic. And each of them are both. In
them, we are back to the sex magic of the O.T.O. and the A.'.A.'., and
once again we are dealing with Babalon, the Beast, Hadit, Nuit, Set, Chaos,
and Baphomet. No knowledgable person would deny the centrality of these
sex practices to Crowley's systems, and no truthful person could deny that
every time they are set forth in ritual and meditation instructions, they
are flanked and upheld by a constellation of Thelemic and Satanic symbols.
Was Crowley a Satanist? Is Thelema a form of Satanism? Only the most
contrived definition of "Satanism" could answer these questions "no".
What would Crowley have answered? In a dedication to "Why Jesus Wept",
he told G. K. Chesterton that he, Crowley, had "found [his] Messiah in...
the Devil and all his angels", and showed through gematria that the
Serpent was the true Messiah. In "Magick in Theory and Practice" (cap.
IV) and "The Book of Thoth", and many other places, he praised Satan
at length. He sang rapturous love-songs to the devil in his ritual
practices, and gave him the unholy kiss referred to in the legends of
the templars and the Sabbat. He wrote, in the last chapter of "Magick
in Theory and Practice", that:
"The Devil" is, historically, the God of any people that one
personally dislikes. This has led to so much confusion of
thought that THE BEAST 666 has preferred to let names stand
as they are, and to proclaim simply that AIWAZ -- the solar-
phallic-hermetic Lucifer -- is His own Holy Guardian Angel,
and "The Devil" SATAN or HADIT of our particular unit of the
Starry Universe. This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of
Man, but HE who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil;
He bade "Know Thyself!" and taught Initiation. He is "the
Devil" of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the
Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection.
We have no need to speculate on the issue. The man has spoken clearly