Lords of the Left Hand Path: Forbidden Practices & Spiritual Heresies (From the Cult of Set to the Church of Satan). Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D.; Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont. 1997; 2nd edition 2012. 288 pages.
Cogito ergo sum; “I think, therefore I am” was first put forth as an existential idea by Rene Descartes back in the 17th century. Being able to think or consider is what separates us from beasts, but many people back then, as now, would find it easier to be guided by an outside authority on ethics, tastes, all the things which make human beings ‘enlightened’. Right… according to Stephen Flowers we have the capacity to be much more than the slaves of an objective universe. The differences in these philosophies bring us back to the common descriptions of spiritual perspectives on the universe and how our own motivations determine the magicks means and ends. ‘Right Hand Path’ is the pursuit of Union with God (the goal of most mainstream religions), and usually this is accessed OUTSIDE oneself; “Humanity is to seek knowledge of the law, and then apply itself to submitting to that law in order to gain ultimate union with the objective universe, with God, or with Nature” (p.8). This motivation results in the eventual annihilation of the Self or Ego, to make room for the Divine to fill us. Whilst this sounds like a blissful and honorable goal in spiritual progression, I find it somewhat un-genuine to the potentiality I possess. Why bend my Self to the laws of the Universe if I can manipulate the Universe to fit MY Will? Isn’t this ultimately what practicing magic is all about? Otherwise we can just call it praying.
As Flowers re-tells the history of LHP application and influence in everything from philosophy, spirituality, to art and governments; adversarial rebellion has been around since the beginning of religious thought. Given in a chronological order allows for the modern story to be told in a way which the reader can easily see the development and evolution from a surprising perspective. By providing a list of certain criteria, each section of the book examines and deconstructs various figures and philosophies from history:
- “Self-Deification: the attainment of an enlightened (or awakened), independently existing intellect and its relative immortality.
- Individualism: the enlightened intellect is that of a given individual, not a collective body.
- Initiation: the enlightenment and strength of essence necessary for the desired state of evolution of self are attained by means of stage created by the will of the magician, not because he or she was “divine” to begin with.
- Magic: the practitioners of the left-hand-path see themselves as using their own wills in a rationally intuited system or spiritual technology designed to cause the universe around them to conform to their self-willed patterns” (p.11).
What is revealed through the text is an analysis of several historical personages and paths which might be considered ‘sinister’; such notable personalities as Aleister Crowley, Karl Marx, and the Marquis de Sade all have SOME applicable qualities, but not ALL.
When I first embarked on the path of magic, like many I was a rebellious/curious youth searching out some way of explaining my experiences and ways of relating to Godhead. I often cut school and went to the library to smoke cigarettes outside and read books/magazines until it was time to catch the bus back home. Funny that no adult ever bothered me; I suppose they figured a 14 year old who sits at the library instead of school is probably not up to trouble. At the beginning of the 1990’s there was more materials becoming available in the occultic arts, with access to books on both sides of the fence regarding witchcraft and satanism in particular; the satanic scare of the 80’s produced a huge amount of material in these areas. As a recent ex-Catholic I wanted to go as far away from the God of my childhood, so I picked up Anton LeVey’s Satanic Bible , a friend gave me Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche , and the works of H.P. Lovecraft; I felt terrified and inspired at the same time. It was not until I tried my first spell that I decided not to pursue this path… as the curse worked only too well and ended up doing more damage than I ever intended for all. There was still something missing from my spiritual path which did not empower me…I still felt uneasy about being part of an organized religion of any kind, but at the ripe age of 16 I read The Spiral Dance by Starhawk and knew then it was the feminine power of the Goddess which was missing. I realized the need to seek this part of myself out and I did, for almost 20 years.
And now I have come back full circle, into darkness under the cloak of Hekate. I have the academic training to decipher bullshit, received initiations from the Gods themselves into the deeper mysteries of my spiritual path, and the magickal training/focus to succeed in any endeavor I set forth. I was not ready, I had not evolved at such a young age to see beyond the scope of ‘spookiness’; the shock value of being in the shadows has a certain appeal, but does not reveal much in the true Light. Even in my Buddhism, I have natural tendencies towards LHP in this spiritual vein: wanting to resist the final annihilation of my ego to embrace and use it toward tantric explosions of progression on my path. I accept responsibility for my own choices and actions both on the mundane and psychic planes; there is no destiny except the one in which I create. I embrace the Gods as kin; I am ready to purify and begin the process of igniting the Promethean flame in my heart. Inspire, desire and fire come forth.