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Back To The Left Hand Path

Shade Oroboros

"One reaches Heaven by the very practices which may lead to Hell."
- Tantric maxim

The use of the term Left Hand Path is largely drawn from the circles of eastern Tantra: when worshippers gathered for a rite of worship or Puja a clothed woman or Shakti would sit on the right side of her partner in purely symbolic or Right Hand ceremonies, and a naked woman on the Left in those much more uncommon celebrations where actual physical congress took place. Such an exalted woman is regarded as a Guru, and as the very incarnation of the Goddess Herself. Modern westerners tend to have a wildly distorted view of Hindu tantra as an endless sexual orgy, which hardly does justice to the ritual and philosophical complexity of more genuine practices. Traditional Indian society was rigidly stratified and structured, and a devotee might spend many years of study and preparation under a teacher before the climactic moment of such a radical and ego-shattering act as intercourse outside the bounds of marriage and the rules of the caste system. This was performed as a sacred initiation, given by a wisdom-bearing Dakini or Suvasini. Often such rites took place at midnight amid the burning corpses of the cremation ground, poised between terror and delight. Left Hand practices have always tended toward extremes, and although sometimes outwardly quite respectable their devotees more often include holy men or sorcerers, outcasts or outlaws. The Vama Marga or Left Path is also the Daksini Marga, the Way of Women (the Yin-Tao in China), revering the Goddess or Shakti who is the primordial energy. She is often seen as Maya, the Great Enchantress who weaves the illusions of reality as Lila or play, and as the Fire Snake or Kundalini Serpent who lurks coiled at the base of the spine. This magical power can be awakened to rise through the energy centers of the body that are called chakras, activating the Third Eye and finally blossoming as the Thousand Petaled Lotus or crown chakra. She appears again as the Uraeus snake upon the crowns of Egyptian royalty, a fiery avatar of the Eye of Ra, and in the serpentine forms of primal gods such as Heka, who personifies magick itself. In later times we find sacred serpents in the rites of Voudon, and we must not forget that Egypt once included parts of Africa. Tantra has become a huge influence on western magick, but both the outward and inward forms of these practices must mutate to be valid in a very different culture. In Thelemic terms we find the tantric Svecchachara, or ‘path of one's own will’. This is said to be similar to ‘riding the tiger’ or ‘walking on the edge of a sword’.
The earliest European explorers, gazing upon the elaborately writhing sculptures that decorated many of the great Hindu temples, projected many of their own repressed urges and instincts upon the colonized peoples of Asia. The rather twisted morality of the Victorian era was easily adopted by upper class Hindus as well, since it fit in with their own prejudices of purity and control. Tantra had its origins in the ancient Dravidian culture of the Indus Valley region, long before the later Vedic tradition of the Aryan invaders. Madame Blavatsky and her cohorts also employed the phrase Left Hand Path as a pejorative term for black magick, and the Theosophical Society served to a large extent as the first major infusion of eastern philosophy into western popular culture.
The West, however, has ancient left hand practices of its own: from the sacred prostitutes or Qadeshtu of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean world, to the rumored orgies of underground Gnostic sects later suppressed as heretics, to the dark sabbats of the witches. These covens seem to originally have been led by a Lady of the Fair Folk: not the shallow gossamer-winged fairies of fantasy, but the primordial powers of the earth, the forest, and the sacred stone circles, the spirits of air and darkness. Her consort was the Lord of the Wild Hunt, the shadowy Horned One who was once Shiva and Dionysos, Cernunnos and Wodan and goat-footed Pan. We all know who he became, however: Old Nick, the Dark One, the Distinguished Gentleman, and the Archfiend Himself. But before he was Satan in Hell, he was Lucifer the Lightbringer in Heaven, God's first and favorite angel. Even the medieval mind often questioned this turn of events: was there some secret plan involved? Who was really on the side of humankind, the clever devil or the tyrant god?

“The devil is an angel too.”    - Miguel de Unamundo

In esoteric qabala this 'serpent' of Eden has the same numeration as the 'messiah', and in some heretical sects they were viewed as identical, the Devil in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, the Savior upon the Cross or Tree of Life & Death, both working out the plan of humanity's salvation in the face of the blind forces of unjust destiny. Among the hidden occult traditions that lurked in the background of the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, and the Illuminati as well as the Witch-Cult, there was often a trend toward identifying with the sinister opposition rather than the status quo; and daring to question authority was to immediately place oneself in the Satanic party. Since people in these medieval and renaissance periods had no surviving pagan context to define themselves with, the Black Mass was the only available theological alternative, and there has always been a deeply concealed underground of such renegade priests lurking about, drawn straight from the ranks of the christian clergy.
In recent years this trend toward diabolism has resurfaced in such public groups as Anton LaVey's Church of Satan and Michael Aquino's Temple of Set, and perhaps most occultists would think of them as the current standard bearers of the sinister. However, Aleister Crowley's 93 Current might also be considered rather dark by many modern white-light new-agers and pagans, and the Typhonian O.T.O. established by his disciple Kenneth Grant has also devoted much thought to workings upon the nightside of existence. While some might recoil from such thoughts, there are two important points I would like to make: like it or not, Crowley's movement is in fact a genuinely pagan revival of the gods of Egypt, not some watered-down form of pseudo-respectable Satanism. And like it or not, no matter how many recent Interfaith Conferences allow a heathen representative to sit in the back with the Buddhists, the harsh reality is that I do not believe mainstream christianity will ever truly accept Wicca as a legitimate religious tradition, for one very simple reason: Wicca is devoted to an even more threatening figure than their Devil: the Goddess Herself. And the notion of the divine as female, and perhaps even feminist, is a terrifying threat to all their sad delusions of social control.
As we have seen, exaltation of the Goddess is at the very origin of the Left Hand Path. Ever since Lilith the first wife of Adam demanded to be on top during sex and was replaced by the somewhat more compliant Eve, the Goddess has been written out of the history books. Her renewal in recent years has been a rather terrible shock, which continues to ripple through contemporary society. After all, even Satan could be considered a sort of loyal opposition, and his worshippers still had to define themselves within the essentially Christian framework limited to a duality of God and the Devil. A genuine pagan revival completely sidesteps this entire extremely lucrative judeo-christian-islamic worldview and allows individuals to redefine themselves on their own terms. It also reveals far too much about the sordid schizophrenia of western civilization, ever splitting God into two opposing halves, for in other cultures the deity retains unity and even the Wrathful and the Compassionate Buddha are one and the same. Without acknowledging both our darkness and our light, how can we ever become truly whole? With the resolution of duality, or Carl Jung's embrace of the shadow, we take the wisdom and power of the darkness into ourselves; and from there we can move on to the more important mission: changing the world, so that illumination and liberation can be achieved as the birthright of all beings.
In the good old days, in some parts of Europe, left-handed people and those with red hair were burned at the stake. As far back as ancient Rome, legitimate descent ran through the dexter or right hand line. In medieval heraldry, the leftward bend sinister on a shield denoted bastardy. The left side is that of the female, the evil and unholy. The dark Yin seeks to overcome the bright Yang. These are very old prejudices, but perhaps it is time we left them behind. Many people are uncomfortable with negative forces, midnight places, or uncontrollable and primal chaos. They may delude themselves that denial makes such things go away, but they can only be suppressed for a time, and what is denied grows stronger and eventually bursts forth. Perhaps that is why our civilizations, which so emphasize order and light, are continually beset by the uprisings and revolts of chaos and a perceived darkness.

“Maybe this planet is another planet’s Hell.”   - Aldous Huxley

The left-hand path, by the magical formula of opposition or reversal, the tantric Viparit Karani or ‘backward doing’, sees things in very a different way. Order is tyranny, rigidity, and oppression. Chaos is anarchy, renewal, and liberation. In truth the creative tension between the two is what makes progress possible; and since the Church & State serve order, it is left to outlawed and outcast traditions such as magick and witchcraft to champion all revolutionary and individualistic causes, to question the norm and subvert the orthodox. Those spiritual traditions that carry the cause of liberty forward are often persecuted as heresies, yet they are often older and truer than the later structures that seek to supplant them. The nightmare of the tyrant is the freedom of the people; and we are entering an era of freedom. The Left Hand Path is the way of knowledge, while the Right Hand Path rules by faith alone.
The Sufis sometimes expressed the power of the Negative Way or Via Sinistra with the symbol of Black Light, and contemporary Luciferians exalt the Black Sun. Yet another of the secret mantras of Maat is LUTIS NITRA or Black Flame, the nightside of Tiphareth, the power of Set as the inverse reflection of Horus, the darkness that illuminates.