Baphomet’s reputation as a symbol of the Devil was cemented by Eliphas Levi‘s famous cartoon. However, the idea of Baphomet predates him by hundreds of years.
The Knights Templar were the first to worship Baphomet. During the trial of dozens of French Templars, it was alleged they revered a wealth and fertility idol of the same name. In this manifestation, it is generally assumed that the name ‘Baphomet’ is a corruption of ‘Muhammad,’ which reflected the deeply-held anti-Islamic sentiments pervasive at the time.
Later scholarly works, such as Versuch über die Beschuldigungen welche dem Tempelherrenorden gemacht worden, und über dessen Geheimniß by Freidrich Nicolai, assert that Templar gnosticism was authentic and that Baphomet, whose name was derived from the Greek words baphe and metis (meaning “Baptism of Wisdom”) represented the One True God of the Freemasons.
Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall, in his work Mysterium Baphometis revelatum, seu Fratres Militiæ Templi, qua Gnostici et quidem Ophiani, Apostasiæ, Idoloduliæ et Impuritatis convicti, per ipsa eorum Monumenta, alleges – through the use of long-since-debunked archeology – that the Templar link to Freemasonry alleged by Nicolai are incorrect. Rather, he asserted their version of Baphomet was derived from a hermaphroditic pagan fertility god.
An early depiction of Baphomet suggested by Purgstall
It was within this context that Levi drafted his image of Baphomet. Central to his depiction is the concept of “duality,” which he explained thusly:
“The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of hermetism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyn of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. The ugly beast’s head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi- circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyn arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.”
A diagram of the “yin-yang” associations in Levi’s Baphomet
The modern concept of Baphomet was later expanded upon by Aleister Crowley, who adopted him as an important symbol in the cosmology of his religion Thelema.
“The Devil does not exist,” Crowley asserted; “It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God… ‘The Devil’ is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes… This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’ and taught Initiation. He is ‘The Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection… He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light; and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.”
Modern Satanists have adapted his image to the symbol of the inverted pentagram, sometimes called the ‘Pentagram of Baphomet.’
Written within the outer circle of the pentagram is the name of Baphomet in Hebrew. Sometimes the inner circle will contain the names of the Satanic allegory of Adam and Eve: Lilith and Samael.
Anton LaVey listed Baphomet among his 72 Infernal Names of the Devil in the Satanic Bible.