CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A student group at Harvard University has accepted an invitation from a Satanist organization to present a reenactment of an ancient Satanic ritual on campus.
Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club has agreed to allow the New York-based Satanic Temple to perform the Black Mass on Monday during its meeting at Queen’s Head Pub at Memorial Hall. The Satanic Temple is the group known to be behind the “homage to Satan” that has been proposed to be placed adjacent to a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state capitol.
The student club, which was approached by Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves, said in a statement this week that it views the upcoming Black Mass as being an educational experience. Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club also stated that the ritual, which largely is reflective of witchcraft, is not meant to mock any religion, although it traditionally has been used as a parody of Roman Catholicism.
“The performance is designed to be educational and is preceded by a lecture that provides the history, context and origin of the black mass,” the club stated. “Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices. This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.”
Greaves, who states that the event will be based on information outlined in the book La-Bas by French author Joris-Karl Huysmans, told the New York Daily News that he does not see the ritual as being religious as he identifies as an atheist.
“This is not a supernatural ritual,” he asserted. “We don’t believe in the supernatural. And I don’t think belief in the supernatural should give you any privilege, since any deeply held belief should be protected.”
But he said that he believes the Devil is an important figure because of his representation of rebellion.
“There’s no stronger cultural symbol for the revolt against the general idea of arbitrary authority and revolt against ultimate tyranny,” Greaves outlined. “There’s no better a construct that can act as a narrative for our works and goals.”
Harvard University has likewise issued a statement about the Black Mass, explaining that while it disagrees with the presentation, it will allow the event to go forward.
“We do not agree with the student group’s decision to stage an event that is so deeply disturbing and offensive to many in the Harvard community and beyond,” school officials wrote on Friday. “While we support the ability of all our students to explore difficult issues, we also encourage them to do so in ways that are sensitive to others.”
“To that end, the Harvard Extension School has worked with the club’s student leaders to address specific concerns that have been expressed,” they continued, noting that it asked the club to reach out to Roman Catholics on campus to engage in dialogue.
According to the New York Daily News, the club will also host a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition and a Buddhist meditation presentation as part of its series exploring cultural belief systems.