This series of posts is based on a list of initiatory vices and virtues of the Left Hand Path found in Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path by Don Webb. Use of the list is with the permission of the publisher, Lodestar. If these posts pique your interest in the Left Hand Path, please look for the book at Lodestar’s site, http://www.seekthemystery.com , or at Amazon. I highly recommend it, along with many others.
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge Don Webb and Dr. Stephen Edred Flowers for those works on Setianism and the Left Hand Path that they have made publicly available. In but a short time, they have changed the life of a person who spent years feeling guilty about his spiritual alignment until the Left Hand Path was so articulately and clearly expressed by them.
Exploring the Vices and Virtues of Left Hand Path initiation is a very useful way of learning about the LHP, especially if you are coming from an RHP background (as so many of us probably did, despite ourselves). It strikes me as a great opportunity to dispel erroneous myths and obfuscation while at the same time affirming those principles held dear to one who walks the LHP. The Vices are listed first in the book, and I think they are also where most of your surprises will come from if you are reading this and walk the RHP.
Vice #1: Narcissism
Surprised to see this at the top of the list of LHP vices? If your only knowledge of the LHP was filtered through an RHP lens, you probably would be. The Left Hand Path holds the Self and the advancement and growth thereof as its central focus. From the viewpoint of spiritual traditions that value altruism above all else, it is easy to understand how that might seem to be a mistake or pitfall. Those on the RHP work tirelessly to keep their egos in check, since the dissolution of such is one of the primary objectives. Anyone doing the apparent opposite looks, from their shoes, like someone who has lost their way. Even after studying the LHP with an open mind, many on the RHP will never overcome this ingrown prejudice. It is a simple difference of emphasis to which many cannot help but wrongly attach moral significance, but the mere thought of placing oneself at the center of one’s spiritual path seems like the definition of narcissism to someone who thinks that way.
This is probably also at the top of the list because honestly, if you are of an LHP disposition, chances are you’re at least a bit narcissistic, especially when left unchecked. That is why we go out of our way to put it in check. The Left Hand Path involves walking a perilously thin line and is, in many ways, easier to stumble from as a result.
A person who places oneself at the center of their spiritual path should be concerned about slipping into narcissism because if you think about it, narcissism serves nobody—least of all oneself. What does Narcissus achieve all day aside from admiring his reflection? Taking what Don Webb has referred to as Enlightened Self Interest and being obsessed with oneself are two completely different things, and the latter is an energy-wasting distraction. Narcissism is every bit as much a form of withdrawing from the world as is meditating for nirvana in the mountains, but this runs up against another important part of Left Hand Path philosophy: A firm conviction that we are here in the world to do things, not to turn right back around and disappear from it as soon as we become aware of who and where we are. The inertia of self-obsession precludes that, becoming a form of stasis. Constantly gratifying oneself with one’s own admiration, the reward system in the brain is hijacked and the aspirant loses any stimulus to progress. What need does a narcissist see for growth and improvement (also central to the Left Hand Path)?
Aside from stagnation, narcissism also serves to cover up one’s blind spots and shortcomings, ensuring they will never be addressed. The narcissistic antidote for any sort of problem is to find a way to get some attention, which any toddler can do easily enough. If it can’t be positive, then drama will be stirred to generate negative attention—it doesn’t matter, as long as the narcissist takes center stage. Such a condition would be disadvantageous to the LHP practitioner for reasons stated above, but also because there are times when we must work behind the scenes or in ways that may never gain acclaim from an outside source. Some things are better achieved quietly. Some things are only achieved quietly, and a narcissist will never achieve them.