An AIA review of The Black Mask: Satanism in America Today
Written by John Charles Cooper
Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Publishing Company, 1990
Reviewed by Bob and Gretchen Passantino
Copyright 1994 by Bob and Gretchen Passantino.
(The Black Mask: Satanism in America Today by John Charles Cooper. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Publishing Company, 1990, Trade paperback, 192 pages, $7.95.)Dozens of lurid, sensational books on Satanism cram display racks at our local mall bookstore. The bold covers and screaming titles promise blood, gore, mystery, terror, and sinister incantations. The lineup at our local Christian bookstore is nearly identical — the only differences being that in the Christian books Satan finally loses and God wins by a hair. Book after book promises to deliver facts, evidence, sound analysis, and constructive advice. Book after book fails, most simply rehashing common rumors and proposing fantastic conspiracies. In fact, out of the two hundred book working bibliography we developed for our own research on satanism and witchcraft, we recommend only one Christian book as a good general introduction to contemporary American satanism: The Black Mask by John Charles Cooper.
This short, fast-paced, well-documented book brims with pithy, laser-sharp observations about satanism. Cooper is not speaking off the top of his head: he has spent thirty years teaching, counseling, and observing the American religious scene. With a minimum of words he clearly summarizes the causes, development, and current status of satanism. Following are excerpts illustrative of the gems scattered throughout the book:
Fixation with the occult indicates that our society has neglected the human soul, indeed neglected the human being, in pursuit of the scientific-technological revolution and the power and wealth technocracy has promised and delivered — to some (p. 25).Satanism is political rebellion, ethical inversion, religious heresy, and suicidal self-loathing, all mingled in one great, taunting gesture of obscenity, thrown in the face of the universe. . . . Satanism is the ultimate in deviant behavior, the preeminent in perversion (p. 32).
Satanism, in the modern sense of that concept, began as a search for sexual “kicks,” sensual enjoyment, and power over others. That is what it remains today (p. 38).
Popular culture, the way we see ourselves and the way we are with one another, is the source of satanic activity, not some “organized conspiracy.” . . . We are the people our parents warned us against. We, who call license “freedom,” are the sources from which the young and the unbalanced draw the elements to create their individual “hells” (p. 53).
[Satanism] is utter selfishness, pure egotism in action, and a quest for personal power and unlimited sensual pleasure. Destructive occultism represents the triumph of the will and the rejection of all authority. . . . (p. 54).
Satanism blesses and encourages the expression of all that is natural to adolescent development — rebellion, defiance, and specialness — yet it lacks a positive, rational framework and totally disregards relational, social, and religious boundaries and values (p. 61).
These feelings of power, the desire to control, and the pathological pleasure in hurting others are emotions quite close to those expressed in the utter hedonism, the conscienceless pleasure seeking of the committed destructive occultist (p. 112).
After much thought, I believe that the claims of breeders and great numbers of MPD [Multiple Personality Disorder] cases are classic examples of urban legends. The reality of satanic crime makes unthinking belief in unsupported claims unnecessary. I may be wrong, of course, but logically there is no cause to accept claims without proof (p. 120).
Those fascinated by the occult and drawn to the practices of Satanism are obsessed with the dark, the filthy, the dead, the irreverent, and the antisocial (p. 124).
In a personal interview, Cooper explained he wasn’t afraid of the controversy stirred by some of his more controversial statements against conspiracy theories and against the credibility of breeders. “Truth is my only motivation. I debunk what is not true because it is not true. I have no agenda but truth. As a Christian, I believe you can’t remain in a state of grace without upholding the truth.”John Charles Cooper has a broad background in philosophy, theology, pastoral counseling, and teaching. Cooper has several earned degrees, including an M.Div. from Lutheran Seminary, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy and theology from the University of Chicago. He has written dozens of books throughout the last thirty years. Currently Cooper teaches philosophy and religion at Eastern Kentucky University and pastors All Saints Lutheran Church in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Cooper has extensive experience counseling troubled youth concerning cultic and occultic involvement, and has consulted with numerous law enforcement representatives.
The Black Mask combines facts, evidence, sound analysis, and constructive advice for dealing with the deadly world of contemporary American Satanism. Cooper’s book shows an intensity of commitment to moral absolutes and spiritual integrity that alone rescues the Satanist from himself. As Cooper observes, “Ignorance can be overcome with instruction, but moral stupidity continues its devastation year after year” (p. 41).