The Devil You Know (Part Two)
"The leading actor hurried by in the costume of a monk." - Bob Dylan
Satanic Ritual Abuse and occult crime negate themselves for many progressives who might otherwise now be inclined to believe the worst of Earthly Powers. This is because the charges are a challenge to secularist and reductionist assumptions, and come cloaked in layers of ridicule and the seeming superstitions of the reactionary right, against which they have struggling all their political lives.
Or let me break it down this way. As a youth I had a fundamentalist conversion experience from which I spent the next ten years recovering. (It's told, as a lie, in my novel Anxious Gravity.) I was already of the left, and a conservative faith was not an easy graft, with presumptions of ideology always in my face. But the inner tensions were worse, and eventually things just blew apart. Recovery for me meant jettisoning much of the conceptual and cultural ballast of my faith in order to save its largely ineffable core.
Before I knew any better, "Satanic Ritual Abuse" sounded like a scratchy record from my past that I'd left in my parents' basement when I moved out. It was the ghost of an abandoned paradigm: the fear of a backward-masked planet. But I kept reading, until finally I knew something worse. Worse than the devil I'd known, who had sensational publicists in "anti-cult crusader" Bob Larson and "former high priest" Mike Warnke.
On his ministry broadcasts Larson regularly works up a nice head of froth over satanism, but privately he's on friendly terms with frequent guests, including satanist and esoteric fascist Boyd Rice. There's a fascinating interview with Rice here that presents a window on their relationship. Asked whether he thinks Larson is a "repressed Satanist" Rice replies enthusiastically "That's what I'm always telling him! I'm always saying, 'Bob, you're Satanic, you're just presenting it in a convoluted way, because you're going on the air and taking advantage of these weak, confused people, and they're giving you their money.'" Meanwhile, Warnke is a manic preacher and "America's number one Christian Comedian" who claims to have led a murderous Satanic cult of 1,500 members in the mid-60s, yet is almost certainly an abusive and pathological fraud.
The evangelists found a perfect foil in Anton LaVey, who could pass the bucket with the best of them, and obligingly inhabited the caricature of the devil-on-earth right down to the plastic horns and cat suit. But better the devil you know, because this devil whom both sides pimped was little more than a Halloween spook, and a figure of titilation at a safe distance for sheltered Christians who liked to receive their vicarious kicks under cover of "testimony."
I expect, for many, Satanic Ritual Abuse is not a serious subject because the devil they know is not a serious figure. Unlike the devil they don't.
There are at least 2,635 place names in America sharing the words Devil, Diablo or Diabla. Loren Coleman writes that "Europeans coming to America were quite taken with the sinister experiences they had or they would hear about from the Native Americans already here, and these colonists started giving the name Devil to all the locations that were tied to unexplainable phenomena." Places like South Dakota's Hill of the Little Devils, about which Lewis and Clark were told by plains Indians was inhabited by "midgets" who would kill anyone who approached their "spirit mound." (Clark wrote that the Omahas, Otoes, and Sioux were so afraid that "no Consideration is Suffecient to induce them to apporach the hill"); Oklahoma's Devil's Promenade, where generations of glowing, orange orbs have been observed; the barren circle of North Carolina's Devil's Tramping Ground; and the Devil's Highway, Route 666, which links skinwalker accounts to more modern American mytholgies of Roswell and the Trinity atomic blast.
An American folly has always been the thought that the nation resides in a "New World." Large numbers of immigrants were drawn to the novelty of America by the prospect of shedding the superstitions of the Old, but Europeans also found ancient wild things of spirit that had not yet been domesticated by generations of dogma and forgetfulness. And because we are also spirit and not altogether perfect and wise, they found perfect and ignorant hosts.
It's been said that Bush's backwash base would still support him even if he ate a baby on television. But he does effectively just that everytime he praises the bloody course of his war which has already claimed a quarter million innocent lives. He's feeding something older than America, a parasitical demon which is also devouring the host, whether he knows it or not.
There is a Satanic criminal underground, trading in flesh and guns and drugs, but there is another network underlying it and unconcious of itself. The ritual child abuse of Ponchatoula's Hosannah Church appears unconnected to a broader conspiracy, so how did these seemingly unsophisticated, small-town parishioners come to adopt an ancient, secret tradition of sex magick? Ritual abuse happens in churches in part because that's where ritual happens, and like it or not, humanity appears hardwired for ritual.
When Prescott Bush robbed Geronimo's grave and carried his skull home to Yale as a trophy, was he fully conscious of partaking in a universal warrior cult that finds power in the remains of the worthy dead?
"America is a nation of prayer," said Prescott's grandson last Thursday, asking Americans to "humbly recognize our continued dependence on divine Providence." Someone better acquainted with America said "that god you been prayin' to is gonna give ya back what you're wishin' on someone else."