For the idea of a morality that rejects authority in favor of individual sovereignty, we must look outside the narrow view offered by Church and State. From time to time great teachers who appear at seemingly significant moments have suggested we take the initiative ourselves and look within for the highest apprehension of the good and virtuous. Is there such a thing as a ‘morality’ of the Left-Hand Path? Or is the LHP simply a dark aesthetic void of morality, ethics or judgment? Can the LHP exist simply as a fondness for all things dark? Or does it require something more substantial in order to qualify as a ‘path’ or a ‘way’?
One of the greatest studies of this question and its occurrence throughout history comes from Stephen Flowers’ seminal work Lords of the Left Hand Path, where he not only offers excellent definitions which codify the LHP as a coherent, whole and complete system of thought and ethics, but also traces manifestations of the same throughout history. According to this work, a true Lord of the Left Hand Path is defined by two major criterion – Self-deification and antinomianism. I here wish to examine the first of these – Self-Deification – a little more closely. Flowers further breaks this into four components like so:
- Self-deification – 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 stages created by the will of the magician, not because he or she was “divine” to begin with.
- Magic – practitioners of the LHP 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.
Since Self-Deification appears as a criterion and a component, it could make sense to consider Individualism, Initiation and Magic as components of Self-Deification. In any case, it is apparent these premises work together to form a comprehensive and legitimate morality of the Left-Hand Path. They suggest value judgments, metaphysical assertions about what the world is made of, and recommendations for what to do with that world and how to behave virtuously within it.
Antinomianism doesn’t really constitute a component of the moral equation. Quite simply it doesn’t deal with such notions as right or wrong, but rather focuses more of preference, taste and aesthetics. Also, what is considered antinomian is temporal and subject to change since it is determined by what is popular at any given time. For instance, at one time in history it may have been antinomian to wear black clothing, but as more people started to do it eventually it became common and predictable, so true antinomians had to start wearing white. In many ways Antinomianism is simply a matter of taste, and not really a strong belief about right or wrong behavior.
It may be noticed by anyone studying Lords of the Left-Hand Path that Dr. Flowers doesn’t actually use the word “Morality” in referring to any of these things. However he uses a close cousin “ethics.” As he states: “Although beyond good and evil, this path requires the most rigorous of ethical standards. These standards are based on understanding and not on blind obedience to external authorities.” Merriam Webster’s simple definition of “ethics” is “rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad.” They are pretty close, but it looks like ‘ethics’ tends to refer more to rules, while ‘morals’ are the core beliefs. Perhaps then Self-Deification is best understood as the morality, with Individualism, Initiation, and Magic as ethical components. At a certain point such questions may be splitting hairs, but nevertheless there is ample support here for the idea of a Left-Hand Path Morality. The reason this is important will be addressed in the next chapter.
Some may object that Initiation and Magic are not ethical concerns at all, but rather metaphysical, in other words beliefs about what reality is, rather than what should be done with it. Here is must be noted the specialized LHP usage of these terms – explicit in Flowers’ definitions of them; for a specialist in these ideas “Initiation” is simply the idea of “evolution” taken to a personal level, and “Magic” is simply the idea of “Will” or self-determinism taken to a personal and practical level.
Getting to the level of ethical valuation, we could further elaborate on those precepts in the following manner:
- Self-Deification = good, Self-sublimation = bad
- Individualism = good, Collectivism = bad
- Initiation/evolution = good, Stasis = bad
- Magic/Will = good, Obedience/Slavery = bad
All of these components work together to form a clearly defined morality of the LHP that is certainly apparent in TOS and the Old COS. In the current COS criteria 3 and 4 (Initiation and Magic) have possibly lost some relevance due to the emphasis on atheism. The erosion of Left-Hand Path morality is even more apparent in some contemporary ‘Satanic-looking’ groups, whose professed mission of encouraging benevolence and empathy among all people seems blissfully unaware of any the four precepts, and in the end amount to no more than naive attempts to form alliances with liberal political factions. Fighting against oppression is admirable, but if one hasn’t prepared anything more substantial beneath it, any gains will eventually crumble away.
The more one looks at these sorts of groups it begins to look like really the main thing – their ‘reason for being’ is simply to support their preference for the dark esthetic and personal fetishism. They do generally maintain a sense of being ‘against the grain,’ and one could make the case that they do in that sense qualify as antinomian. But as stated before this in the end identifies only a certain sense of aesthetics.
And this reveals one of the key problems in considering antinomianism as a sole criteria for LHP – it is inconsistent. Antinomianism is always formed as a reaction against a certain movement or trend, it’s nature is therefore always being dictated by its opposition, and this in itself is in contradiction with the ideas like free will and individualism.
The other problem is that since such trends and movements are often transient – changing with the wind and subject to revolutions of style and fashion – it is possible that what yesterday was rebellious and underground might tomorrow find itself mainstream and common. Therefore the dedicated antinomian must always be scrambling to embrace new paradigms, or concocting new justifications for old paradigms.
Therefore be careful not to confuse the LHP with youth movements, fashion trends, or ‘special interest’ political fads. Antinomianism as a concept may help us to understand the the dark aesthetic of the LHP; but the core ideas – embodied in the Four Precepts of Self Deification – provide the unchanging values and moral core of the LHP.
“But doesn’t everyone have different boundaries and priorities? Isn’t defining a common morality just another attempt at authoritarianism? With a group of LHP Magicians isn’t that like trying to herd cats?”
The Morality of the Left-Hand Path – of self-interest, self consciousness and self-deification – makes no requirements or mandates on the priorities or boundaries of others, beyond maybe mutual respect or common courtesy – which is really just common sense and doesn’t really need to be codified anyhow. It is a moral code that an individual uses to strengthen and affirm their self. Again, it would be the Morality of the Right-Hand Path – the morality of authoritarianism, obedience, and collectivism – which concerns itself with organizing/herding people/cats. Those who object to LHP morality on these grounds simply haven’t considered the question deeply enough.