#10 Can Literature Be Canon If It’s Not Sacred Or Literal?

Can Literature Be Canon If It's Not Sacred Or Literal?

Under the page "Learn," The Satanic Temple's website lists Canon literature as well as The Satanic Temple Library- Further Reading, which is a suggested reading list that includes primary reading, sections on Literary Satanism, History of Satanism, Satanism Today, and related topics as well as books regarding theocracy. The Satanic Temple is very loudly a nontheistic religious organization, and the idea of it having canon literature can be confusing. I've seen that canon is usually considered to be sacred text, to be taken literally and associated too seriously with theistic religion. I don't necessarily think that canon needs to be literal, just as I don't think Satan needs to be literal either. This topic might be a short one and one that you’ve never even really considered, but it’s a good question which I want to tackle. (I will take a moment now to remind you all that I am not a spokesperson for The Satanic Temple and that my interpretations, views and words are my own).

Satanists pride themselves in being individualistic and in taking personal responsibility for their learning and practices. Religious expression is a deeply personal thing, and it makes very much sense for Satanists to pick and choose which topics, ideas and perspectives they study along their journey. It could be argued then that having canon literature doesn't fit this practice, but it seems to me that the canon literature, while highly recommended, is never pushed or required. Can it be considered canon, then, if it isn't required?

The "Primary Reading," section of The Satanic Temple's website could be seen as a recommendation for what to read first. Similar to the tenets, these are guidelines for personal interpretation. TST's 7th tenet states, "Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word." It is in this same tone that the reading list should be viewed- the canon is there, should a Satanist need it and wish to embrace it.

The definition of canon (according to a quick Google search, which I use as that is what most people will also use) is: "1. a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged. 2. a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine."

While this definition could certainly expand to be more relevant and modern by including context for nontheistic religion, just like many other words that we will use and continue to add new nuance to, I do think that nontheistic canon fits this definition. You could argue that TST's canon fits the description for "criterion by which something is judged," as well as "a collection or list of sacred books."

Additionally, the idea of canon literature could be viewed in the light of other artworks such as television shows or comics. Often, when an idea is expanded artistically into its own Universe of characters and stories (storytelling just like mythologies), some original works will be considered canon. In that context, canon literature is used to help with decision making and principles for new works. Certainly, fanfiction isn't created under the impression that that story's canon mythologies ever really happened, but they still hold sentimental value and act as artistic structuring for what is new.

I do think that The Satanic Temple's choice for canon, which is Anatole France's Revolt Of The Angels (1914), is an excellent choice. This story tells a beautiful mythology with many lessons about humanity and about advocating for prevailing justice against tyranny, all in the context of a heroic Lucifer. The ending itself is a deeply felt and poetic twist to those lessons. Revolt is my favorite book (you can read my rambling review here), and, I gladly accept it as religious canon. Do I take it literally and think that these stories could have ever happened, obviously not. I would consider it to be genuine though, in the sense of it being a genuine mythology with lessons to teach. Do I consider it sacred? This depends on how you define what is sacred. Without worrying too much about if that word only belongs to literal theists or not, I would say that this text is the closest thing I will ever have to holding something sacred.

We do not need to succumb to supernaturalism and a faith in things which cannot be proven, in order to hold ideas dear (or even sacred) to us. Theists do not own religion, nor do they own the concept of deeply held belief or personal values or ideas such as canon literature. Theists might argue that their holy texts are recommended reading, but we all know they they don't always actually read them. At least Satanists will admittedly read whatever they wish to read, and they will generally celebrate each other's progress in continued learning and studying regardless of what that looks like.

Go Hail Yourself!

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