What do you seek? What do you see in the darkness? And what kingdom do you pledge yourself to?
These sound like the questions one might read at the beginning of a bodice ripper, or the introduction to a video game. But when taken deeply inside, when grasped tightly and reeled into the least explored parts of the self they often yield interesting and even surprising answers.
These are questions that helped me demolish the fear I had around exiting the cult of communion consciousness, or unity consciousness – whichever you prefer. I had been born into a mildly religious house with a fairly harmless relationship to our local Catholic Church. My mother believed in picking and choosing what worked for you individually, which was ultimately an amazing example to have. She also advocated having a personal relationship with a higher power, which she called God, but she never set about defining what that was other than love… and she never tried to force that relationship on me. Along with her unique interpretation of post Vatican II doctrine, she made special places throughout our house for altars to the Virgin Mary as well as observing local southwestern customs for venerating the dead. These things were healthy things; being a buffet Catholic was a healthy approach and she didn’t want my siblings and I to be oppressed by the more conservative elements she knew were lurking out there.
Unfortunately, for all her careful education and good intentions, it did not stop me from becoming infected by a very specific kind of spiritual malady. As a young person and well into my teens, I experienced a series of spiritual events that left me confused and desperately hungry for answers. So starved in my heart, I ultimately became willing to give up parts of myself to that religion, integral pieces of myself, of my personal power and identity, against my intuition and barely matured better judgement. Religious doctrine requires personal sacrifice and an abdication of personal power as payment for answers to mysteries that often haunt us in the quiet moments of the day and night. Both the big questions and the small require sacrifices that are classified as “holy” and “righteous” in order to obtain answers. For some, those answers settle the heart and mind, and when they don’t, a confession of a lack of faith remedies this insecurity and penance is administered. A daily choice is made to store one’s faith in a doctrine, because it is the correct and moral thing to do. It is both right and righteous – do not look further.
I suffered incredibly under the yoke of this doctrine. It was difficult and uncomfortable as a child to reconcile the post Vatican II church with that of the Church of the Inquisition. The weight of that violence that once existed towards those deemed diabolical did not fit with the message of Jesus from the New Testament. Even if it had been a mistake, it was a pretty fucking big one. No one could tell me why we shouldn’t just instead be Jewish, since that’s what Jesus was and it was good enough for him, and he was the standard by which we measured ourselves, right? No one could tell me why women couldn’t be priests; so I wrote a letter to Pope John Paul the II around the age of 7…to no response. No one could explain to me why God had created Hell, and why anyone should be punished eternally, especially for things like french kissing before marriage. And how on earth could pre-marital french kissing and murder be equivalent???
All the while I interrogated the elders of my church, it became very important part of my social life. With a desire to have some degree of acceptance, to find common ground with some of the more conservative young people and even to in a more perverse sense not wind up being wrong and burn in hell forever, I found myself giving up my personal sense of ethics for religious morality. Let’s be clear: I french kissed a lot, I wore slutty clothes, and around the age of 14 – with my mother’s blessing – I began dabbling in Wicca. But deep down, I had been stained by a core-rattling fear that I truly was evil on the inside, because I didn’t agree with EVERYTHING. I was stained with the fear of judgment and an ever more confused sense of personal spiritual identity. Duality had claimed me and left very little room for me to explore my innermost self without instantly classifying most new discoveries as somehow problematic. Every new discovery in me held the potential for sin. And though I had not been raised in a home that believed sin was real, it had infected me nonetheless. The absolutism of it all had taken deep root.
It required many devastating personal traumas for me to come to the firmly grounded belief that sin is not real in the classically Abrahamic sense. Or at least it’s not for me; and that’s all that matters. Though there is a deity and religious structure around that deity who who would seek to impose that system, it is not in fact universal law. Neither do I believe in Karma in its more widely tossed around westernized sense. I personally maintain we reap what we sow, and that much like we cannot know the long term impact of sudden massive deforestation, we cannot know the impact of our actions in this cosmic plane as they fan out from us. So, weigh all actions against one’s personal ethical identity; if they be not lazy actions of the ego, then go for it. These hard-won, personally-grounded beliefs are the gifts of the Left Hand Path. For while a binary system or duelist system offers only right and wrong, good and bad, righteousness and sin, an Antinomian system offers the opportunity to cultivate self from multiple vantage points. To approach things head on, but also backwards, sideways and from underneath. This goes beyond even a middle way abolishing false polarity altogether. To cultivate a personal individual sense of ethics by which to navigate all planes one might have access to.
To cultivate these ever-moving vantage points from which to observe both one’s inner and outer world involves going to extremely dark places. Places deemed inaccessible by religious dogma. It also demands we remain well aware of the theoretical, philosophical, medical, magickal, mystical, spiritual and mundane implications of one’s work. These dark places are never the same on any given day, our attachments to them shift hourly – even minute to minute sometimes – and at any given point, one must take an inventory and ask what are my motives for going here today? Has going to the dark become routine? Has a routine practice become stagnant? Am I on spiritual autopilot? Have I momentarily become just a different a form of sheep? Or am I the goat, questioning all things? Actively engaged in shaping my whole existence… Am I still seeking?
Yet there is no Judgement by Jehovah, if this is the case. Abrahamic realms hold no sway here. There is only the whiplash back into conscious thought. And possibly messages from the deities you do work with – if you work with any at all. One such message that was conveyed to me when I began my Left Hand journey was, “I will not punish you. Though I will not accept when you deceive yourself.” That was clear enough, I knew what I must do; the next clear, guttural choice after choice after choice. These series of choices led to me discover the Qliphoth, and thus began my descent into the commitment to building my own kingdom, a sort of spiritual cold fusion chamber that feeds on my darkest matter.
The Left Hand Path, to me, is about an inexhaustible willingness to destroy that which is obedient within. To not follow the lies of others, but also to never fall prey to the lies we might tell ourselves, whether based in fear or in a sort of languishing paralysis. To always be dancing on the knife’s edge of what might have once been true, and ready to fall face first into what is the new truth. Because the true light within the dark is elusive, and one’s internal landscape is infinitely vast. Even when one travels the Ouroborous from head to tail on deeply held beliefs, only to find oneself at the beginning again, it is still a surprise. This constant reflection is what is required. Lilith and her sister at the gate and all the other infernal spheres would expect no less, and I find that humbling and exhilarating. I do this for me, because I seek to see, but never in service to a slave driver. The generosity inherent in the Tree of Death helps me remain in service to myself about the size of my kingdom. I am small in the context of the third dimension, but I am unfathomable in the context of the second, and all that really matters is my willingness. It is all I have.
I take a great deal of humor, too, that in the Left Hand Path I have found a limitless openness and self-aware jovial quality I never found in my wandering on the Right Hand Path. Whether it’s Stephen Flowers’ musings in Lords of the Left Hand Path that Jesus might be one of the most misidentified Satanists who ever (maybe) lived. Or that Loki and Set, like me, have a deliciously fluid gender identity. That Tiamat, Hecate, Kali and Lilith all encompass the fullness of the divine feminine, including the strength and wrath, rage and violence even in their tears that I always knew existed, but never saw reflected in the anemic homilies I’d grown up with. That in these representations I see a blurring of the binary, and therefore a much more honest and beautiful inner world. I take humor from it. But I waste very little time pondering the Right Hand anymore; I have come to accept that it exists, and that for me it acts (when it surfaces in my life) as a cautionary note of how not to act. To always get the fuck out of my own way AND away from what feels safe. That effort I am happy to pledge myself to.