Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good Part of the Dark Side of Magick

I have been gently pilloried for my statements regarding hard core Satanism, saying that often followers of the left hand path end up being darkly transformed by their negative preoccupations. Of course this is really an extreme example and my target has been hard core Satanists and others who blithely use the trappings of “evil” and “darkness” to shroud their obvious lack of ability and competence. I used Anton LaVey as a prime example, but of course, there are always other sides and many variations to this argument. LaVey is a poster child for what is wrong with hard core Satanism, but what of the other variations and gradations that make up the Left Hand Path? The world isn’t black and white, and since I have said that I don’t believe in the moral values of an absolute good and evil, then am I not guilty of being something of a hypocrite to make pronouncements against followers of other paths? Have I thrown out the proverbial “baby and the bath water” as some have stated?

First let me say that what I have discussed in my previous articles have been the extreme cases and the potential for harming oneself. Will it dissuade hard core followers of this path to change their ways? Absolutely not! It may dissuade the beginner from considering such a path and that is my objective. However, there are followers of the Left Hand Path who are reputable, intelligent, brilliant and masterly in what they do. I refer to members of the Temple of Set, chaos magicians, Luciferians, Typhonians, adherents of the Dragon Rouge order, goetic magicians who espouse diabolic paganism or Afro occultism, and a host of others. All of these individuals may or may not be classified as Left Hand Path followers, but they are individuals who seek the dark side of magick for their own spiritual and magickal fulfillment. I understand, appreciate and applaud this preoccupation, since it isn’t that different from my own. However, such individuals stand in stark contrast to the classical “in-your-face” Satanist. I have valid misgivings about individuals who take upon themselves the cloak of superstition, fears and paranoia of their Christian neighbors in order to empower themselves, and I would warn beginners to seek some other path than that of the classic Satanist. However, it was never my intention to lump all of these various groups and individuals into one faction, but that seems to be how my previous article was interpreted.

A point has been made by the blog writer “Von Faustus” in his article about this very issue that those who seek the darkness in occultism and magick are following an antinomian process of contrast and engagement, or as Faustus puts it “engagement with the beliefs of the status quo, even if it is the process of rejection.” Of course, for those who have never heard of antinomianism, it’s a theological term that literally means “unlawful” or the belief that the achievement of salvation does not require the careful following of laws of a religiously defined morality. Another term for this practice would be “unorthodox.” Gnostics were accused of being “antinomian”, and so were other sects of Christianity by their more orthodox peers. Christianity was born out of Judaism through antinomianism. Perhaps an easier way to think of this term is that a person may either obey the tenets of their religion or break rules in order to discover new vistas and different perspectives. I believe that anyone who is a practicing occultist could be said to be practicing a form of antinomianism, especially those who espouse a form of neopaganism.

In my previous article on the left hand path I discussed how morality is, in my opinion, bankrupt and that the practicing ritual magician must forge his or her own ethics and personal guidelines. These can be shared but there are no absolute spiritual laws or rules, so one can’t dictate magickal and spiritual ethics to another without being either misguided or a hypocrite. The term “unlawful” can be taken many ways, from the breaking of social taboos, religious laws of orthodoxy or even civil laws. Anyone who lights up a joint of marijuana, has a few drinks and then drives, travels over the speed limit, crashes a gate at a concert, cheats on their income taxes, or does any number of minor and possibly annoying social or illegal acts is acting in an antinomian manner. However, where I draw the line is in the perpetrating of serious civil crimes. I may find unethical conduct to be antisocial and problematic, but serious crimes are the concern of all members of a society. The definitions of serious crimes may vary from society to society as well. I would be judged quite harshly for my religious beliefs and magickal practices if I happened to live in Iran or Saudi Arabia.

This brings us back to the discussion of the Left Hand Path. If I don’t accept the moral dogma and superstition of monotheistic religious groups and institutions, then I am, defacto, functioning in an antinomian manner in regards to my occult beliefs and magickal practices. It doesn’t matter if I distinguish myself in some manner from followers of the so-called Left Hand Path, we are all in the same group as far as orthodox authorities are concerned. In a word, all of us are considered automatically culpable and liable to sanctions and religious persecution if ever our society suddenly becomes ruled by a Christian theocracy instead of a secular non-religious representational democracy. We are all vulnerable, and also, despite our many divergences and differences, we are kindred spirits. If one of us gets persecuted, then we all stand the possibility of persecution.

In my opinion, one of the ways that some individuals could inflame a social pogrom against all pagans and magicians is to practice a kind of “in-your-face” Satanism, to engage in political fascism, anarchy, racism, and to inspire fear, loathing and hatred in those who choose to be members of the conservative religious orthodoxy. Playing on other people’s fears and superstitions is not only dangerous for the individuals doing it, but it’s dangerous for the rest of us as well. Thankfully, most people are discreet about their magickal and occult practices, but the few who inspire public hate and terrorism are a problem for all of us. A case in point is the incidence of church burnings and murder in Norway during the early 1990's, instigated by the lyrics and music of rock bands of a genre called “Black Metal.” Thankfully, the movement was isolated to a given locality and lasted for a short duration, but a larger scale occurrence in the U.S. would have severe repercussions for anyone practicing magick or neopaganism.

This was the point that I was trying to make when I said in my previous article: “However, to engage in an adversary relationship with your native culture is to also inadvertently mine the rich strata of xenophobia, alienation, hatred and self-loathing.” Also: “So it’s for this reason that I believe that followers of the left hand path, particularly those who espouse forms of Satanism, are ultimately twisted, warped, alienated and forced to either change (and conform) or become society’s great losers.” I do believe that I have a valid point in making these pronouncements, but I am referring to the extreme case as a kind of warning to all of us who practice magick. It does not mean that I am condemning anyone who engages in the practice of “dark” magick or diabolic pagan practices. There is a place for all of us at the table of neopagan occult religions, and I respect all who faithfully practice their alternative religions and magick in peace and good will. This is particularly true because I consider myself neither a follower of the left hand or the right hand path, being a denizen of that shadowy grey area that is more a practical reality than an alliance to some path or persuasion. I aspire in my magickal workings to integrate the HGA or Bornless One into my own self, and thus elevate myself to the level of a godhead, however thinly or briefly. This is certainly a lefthand path perspective. However, I also give veneration, offerings and worship to my ancestors and my gods, thus making me a follower of the right hand path.

What exactly is that dark magick that is being practiced by many, including members of the left hand path? I would classify it as a form of chthonic spirituality. Many of the deities honored and worshiped in these systems represent forces and spirits from the underworld. This would include goetic demons and other dark mythic beings, as well as deities such as Typhon, Apophis, Set, Anubis, Hades, Persephone, Pluto, Lilith, Samael, Teitan, Lucifer, Baphomet, Baron Samedi, Papa Legba or Eleggua, the Ghede - the list is endless. As diverse as this group is, what they have in common is that they represent the forces of death, darkness, the unknown and the unresolvable mysteries in human existence. They are a counter force to the light, the rule of law and reason, representing that human nature is clearly directed by impulses from both the light and the darkness. Those who engage in dark magick are only seeking to redress the imbalance in our culture that is so focused on the light, and to dispel superstition, the fear of the darkness and the unknown. Such practices are as integral to the art of magick, neopagan religion and occultism as are any exoteric praxis or faith. I would label these systems of belief and practices as highly beneficial, representing the positive or good part of the dark side of magick.

So to allay the concerns and assuage the feelings of others on spiritual paths that are different than mine and who may have interpreted my words as insulting, I offer this clarification. I have in no way condemned any of the traditions of the so-called left hand path. I have a great deal of respect for individuals who follow paths differently than mine but who none-the-less have made magick their spiritual discipline and practice. Such individuals are my brothers and sisters and I do not judge or criticize their paths.

However, I feel the need to give a warning to all of us that we are a distinct minority in the U.S., and unlike Europe, we don’t have a culture that is only lukewarm towards its established orthodox religions. In America, politics and religion freely mix, creating a potentially toxic and lethal combination. In the U.S., individuals and groups have been persecuted for their religious beliefs and practices at various times, particularly if the power elite feel themselves threatened by ideas, beliefs and practices that are not only different from their own but are being promoted in a highly aggressive manner. What happened to the Mormons in the early and middle 19th century has been repeated with other groups, so we must take these sobering thoughts into consideration and use discretion and common sense when operating in society.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Defining antinomianism as "unlawful" is an oversimplification. It's true meaning is "against the word" meaning you go against the word of another. Unlawful, is a moral connotation not a philosophical connotation. Visit my website for a better description of the Left Hand Path.

  2. Fr. B:

    Thank you! I very much enjoyed this entry! I figured you'd written me off. It's a bit refreshing that such wasn't the case! Which reminds me, I have the time to kick back and read/comment on your Headless/Bornless Ritual entry tonight...

    Magister Adams:
    Actually, "antinomian" as a descriptor may be applied to philosophies and theology outlooks as well. You might want to take a glance at Deleuze and Guitarri's "A Thousand Plateaus," three of the essays have a clearly antinomian aspect to them and the book is a post-structural philosophical treatise. So I'm afraid that "true meaning" or not, your rigid focus on the term is a bit off. I'll take a gander over to your website sometime tonight and see what you have up, though. Always enjoy the Temple of Set's work... Well, almost always.