Lords of the Left-Hand Path
by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D., Runa-Raven Press, 1997
Flowers originally wrote this book between 1989 and ’92, ‘in large measure as a response to the irrational ‘Satanic scare’ of the late 1980’s’, and offered it to various publishers, who all rejected it. Apparently, its serious approach was judged ‘too disturbing’ for the masses. It is not hard to see why the mainstream had to reject this extraordinary book. To start with, his criteria for being considered a Lord of the Left Hand Path are Deification of the Self, and Antinomianism. In his own words:
"The first criterion will be seen to have four distinct elements:
Self-deification - attainment of an enlightened (or awakened), independently existing intellect and its relative immortality.
Individualism - the enlightened intellect is that of an 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 stages created by the will of the magician, not because he or she was ‘divine’ to begin with
Magic - 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 patternThe second criterion, antinomianism, states tat practitioners think of themselves as ‘going against the grain’ of their culturally conditioned and conventional norms of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. True Lords of the Left-hand Path will have the spiritual courage to identify himself [sic] with the cultural norms of ‘evil’. There will be an embracing of the symbols of whatever quality the conventional culture fears and loathes."
Flowers takes an in-depth look at individuals and cults from the ancient world East and West through to the magi of this century. Reasons of space preclude even the briefest skim over his vast list of subjects. Two of the odder features include the question ‘Was Jesus a Lord of the Left-Hand Path?’, and a chapter on Adolf Hitler and the Modern Mythologizing of Evil. In the latter, he starts by debunking the standard ‘occult Nazism’ texts as lacking in factual basis, and unbalanced in analysis. Regarding Flowers’ own criteria as quoted above, he examines the Nazi attitude to deification, and concludes that the tendency is present, but not for the individual but for the ‘Aryan’ race:
"The individual is almost totally irrelevant in the ideology of Nazism - except as a mythic heroic model for behaviour suited to the aims of the State."
The initiatic strain he perceives as absent too:
"The most ‘magical’ aspect of National Socialist rankings would have to do with the relative purity of a person’s ‘blood’. As genetic, or eugenic, magic was the major Nazi methodology for working in the field of magical reality ‘initiatory progress’ in this could hardly be measured in individual terms, but only in familial ones"
The antinomian issue he also sees as collective for the Nazis; they opposed what they saw as the trend of history, rather than supporting the individual in opposition to the consensus. It is thus a bit puzzling why Flowers concludes the chapter with:
"National Socialism might best be described as a uniquely post-modern, organic school of the left-hand path. They have an organic, collective basis (Folk), but do have a gradual (initiatory) perspective on the transformation of the entity in question from its mundane base into its divine state using magical means - a triumph of the will"
Emphasizing yet again that the direction of the de-individualized will is to be entirely in the service of the aims of the Folk as interpreted by the State, he removes the Nazis from any achievement of his own criteria. To call the Nazi philosophy left-hand path in any sense surely serves only the ends of our own antinomianism in embracing conventional symbols of ‘evil’, rather like wearing Nazi regalia to shock the politically-correct.
For me the most philosophically illuminating studies are those on Aleister Crowley and the chapter on the Temple of Set. When I first came to magick back in the 70’s, Crowley’s rescension of Qabalah was virtually the only thing around. Even now, like a massive star, AC creates such a vast gravity-well that most other LHP magickal writers are compelled to orbit around him. And it is far from clear whether AC’s basic position is LHP or RHP. Flowers presents the first coherent and thorough analysis of Crowley’s basic position from a LHP viewpoint outside of the cults of Crowleyanity. AC’s own commentaries as Flowers notes, often seem to be a blend of LHP and RHP concepts; yet Crowley appears to want his work to be understood as being of the RHP.
"Despite the fact that antinomianism is usually characteristic of the left-hand path, Crowley uses it to right-hand path ends. The core of Crowley’s magical philosophy is the willed dissolution of opposites - ‘Let there be no difference between any one thing and any other thing’ "
I haven’t yet worked out all the consequences of viewing Crowley’s system as essentially confused, but I wonder whether the tendency to addictions that seems to be prevalent in his followers (as in himself) is entirely unrelated to this blurring of concepts? A mixture of memes that move one towards dissolution and memes that stress individualism and antinomianism may implant a confusion about the nature of one’s magickal progress right in the core of one’s magickal values.
The chapter on Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set poses a very interesting challenge to contemporary theories of magick. Flowers sets out Aquino’s magickal theories: in Setian White Magic, the sorcerer ‘envisions a god or daemon with the power to achieve the objective, then concentrates his will into an appeal’. The work is done ‘via an extreme degree of autohypnosis’.
Lesser Black Magic works by ‘the application of obscure physical or behavioural laws’. This is essentially the same as LaVey’s Lesser Magick.
Greater Black Magic ‘involves no autohypnosis or conditioning of the mind to make it receptive to subconscious imagery. Rather it is a deliberate and conscious attempt to force the mind outward - to impact upon the alter the ‘laws’ of the mechanical Universe’. When I first read these 3 definitions, I thought ‘Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the category in which trance (autohypnosis) is used, but without an ‘external’ god or daemon?’. I was, of course, thinking about Austin Spare’s sigilization system, in which the sigil is sunk into the unconscious mind during trance, whilst the ‘psychic censor’ is out to lunch. It had never occurred to me to categorize such a sigil as an ‘external’ entity. However, it is the case that I have never been entirely happy with Spare-style sigilization, and I find that, as my magickal experience and skills grow, it gets harder to use that kind of technique: it gets less easy, and less desirable, to hide from any part of myselves what my will is doing. I have found in any case that the technique is only effective if my will is unified. In that case, there is no need to ‘forget’ the sigil. Once such a condition of one-pointedness is achieved, the mind can indeed be ‘forced outward’ to affect the world. This makes the Setian model of magick rather more inclusive than Spare’s.
One can of course argue that the condition of one-pointedness is in itself a special kind of trance, and would no doubt be considered as such by many researchers. But this is mere semantics, and misses the point: the one-pointed state is not divided, like the mind in autohypnotic trance.
In conclusion, I have been reading books on magick for over 20 years now, and this is one of the most remarkable I have studied. It really is indispensable to any thoughtful magician of the Left Hand path - Dave Lee