(I first reviewed this book in late 2001. The following is an updated and remixed version of my review. --WS, September 4, 2008)
Observers of the outer edges of religious and philosophical exploration over the last century may differ in their conclusions or assessments of what they see. But they must surely agree on one thing: the growing and profound dissatisfaction in the Western world with what the purveyors of mainstream religion have to offer. More and more, people simply aren't buying what the preachers are selling anymore.
This dissatisfaction leaves people open and curious as to what their other options might be. For some, "safe" alternatives like Buddhism or Wicca are enough to suffice. For others, mere wandering is not enough, and dissatisfaction becomes full-on rebellion. These are the seeds of the Satanic tradition, and _Lucifer Rising_ by Gavin Baddeley dares to examine the black flowers that bloom from them.
_Lucifer Rising_ is a book about the actual, as opposed to imaginary, Satanic tradition: its history, philosophy, and counter-cultural manifestations from the past to the present. It begins with a brief history of the shadow side of Western culture from its early beginnings to the present day, with particular interest in the Twentieth Century. The forbidden religious movements and magical orders of the early Twentieth Century - and the personalities that drove them - are covered. Satanism's impact on literature, music, cinema, and popular culture in general are examined. The Devil's long association with rock music and heavy metal in particular is given special attention. And significantly, the sensationalist Satanic Panic of the late 1980s and early 1990s - and the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" hoax of that period - are recalled and debunked.
The book aesthetically does not disappoint. From cover to cover you will find illustrations, woodcuts, photographs, and rare artwork that perfectly compliment the text. This is not to say everything you will see here is pretty or pleasant. But, as the text states clearly, that is not the point.
Throughout the book there are interviews with numerous Satanists, occultists, musicians and counter-culture figures in some way or other associated - some more so than others - with what is commonly considered contemporary Satanism. Collectively, these varying and often opposing voices give a sense of the various sub-currents flowing within this culture of spiritual dissent.
Unlike alarmist They're-Out-For-Your-Kids religious books, or dry academic examinations of medieval folklore, _Lucifer Rising_ is written unapologetically from a Satanic perspective, and Gavin Baddeley is quite unambiguous about this from the very beginning. His bias also leans in favor of Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan in 1966 (and a whole separate topic of controversy in himself). In this updated review I considered downgrading my rating to four stars for this reason.
Then I thought, "Nah." In today's culture, where the average person's idea of Satanism is still based on third-rate horror movies and tabloid-grade propaganda, the record still needs to be set straight in certain quarters. _Lucifer Rising_ accomplishes this in a way the mainstream media would consider unthinkable. However, it is anything but a proselytization tract or "conversion" attempt; from the author's introduction: "...it just doesn't work that way."
The ongoing value of this book is that it is filled with information that to this day simply cannot be found elsewhere, at least not all in one place. It may also be a good gift for someone who still believes the decline of Western monotheism began in the 1960s. I consider this book the definitive reference to the contemporary Satanic landscape, at least from a popular culture perspective. For a more "serious" academic examination of the ongoing philosophical refinements within the stream of spiritual dissent, I recommend this book in combination with _Lords of the Left-Hand Path_ by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D.