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. It is done 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.
Vice #2: Hubris
I didn’t write a lot on the vice of Narcissism because the second vice is Hubris, and the two are closely-related. They feed into one another in subtle and cunning ways, working tag-team as twin pillars guarding the Left Hand Path.
On this vice, Don Webb has to say:
“Because the LHP Initiate does have access to mental states that 99.99% of his fellow humans do not, he can come to believe that all of his actions are justified.”
Like narcissism, the danger of falling into the vice of hubris is held up by many on the RHP as not only a possibility on the LHP, but a foregone conclusion. From the RHP perspective, a person who consciously chooses the Left Hand Path most likely appears guilty of this vice by very virtue of that fact. A critical examination readily shows otherwise.
As a LHP practice, antinomianism is very often misunderstood. In essence, it is the willful engagement in activities that are considered taboo or socially reprehensible, subversive and blasphemous by one’s dominant culture. There are elements of adolescent rebellion in this that are quickly dismissed by more serious LHP practitioners (though that may be a mistake, as even typical teenage rebellion serves an important function in the development of the psyche, just as antinomianism does on the LHP).
The practice of antinomianism basically reveals to one just how socially-constructed much of our morality and reality are. It is empowering and freeing, and this is why it is regarded as dangerous.
The pitfall of hubris is what causes one to sometimes stop at this point of realization, dismissing ethics altogether. The practitioner revels in a newfound sense of power without realizing their arena is still quite limited, even if it be less so than before. They begin to write their own rules, their own morals, their own myths, and believe it’s all okay because they have slain the sacred cow of morality and are above all that.
Now seems like a good time for an axiom: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Freeing oneself from conventional ethical codes is not the same as freeing oneself from ethics altogether. Learning to sidestep the social trappings connected with morality is a firm step toward adepthood, but learning not to step all over one’s own morality is the next. The best way to prevent doing so is to actually formulate one. One should follow an ethical code consistent with one’s core values, and do so even more unfailingly than social sheep adhere to the one they’ve been handed.
In Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path, Don Webb goes on to discuss how one begins to believe that they’ve unearthed universal truths—“enlightenment”—and wind up throwing babies out with bathwater as bigots, looking down on those who have not seen the same “truth.”
These are all problems for the Left Hand Path practitioner because in order for one to continue growing, one must know where there is room for growth. There are so many points on the Left Hand Path where it is oh-so-easy to convince oneself that one has “arrived,” when one has merely found another door to knock on. We need to be keenly aware of our limitations, and sometimes this means setting limitations for ourselves.
As a recommendation to work against Hubris, Don Webb suggests that we surround ourselves with smart, knowledgeable and talented people who remind us how much we have to learn.
Segue: Some basic LHP philosophy contrasted with RHP philosophy, to further illustrate the relationship between the LHP practitioner, Narcissism and Hubris
The Right Hand and Left Hand Paths are in agreement on an initial premise, and depart wildly when it comes to how this premise is interpreted and acted upon.
The common premise between the two is that our sense of individual consciousness, and the living intelligence that suffuses it, is a “gift” from a source greater than ourselves. We part ways in our views of what this means for us as individual units of consciousness.
To one who walks the RHP, this free will and consciousness are gifts to be sacrificed or relegated to the service of the greater whole. Because it comes from a greater source, our possession of it is an illusion that must be destroyed. The highest good lies in returning to a merger with said source, giving one’s individuality “back” to it. From the RHP perspective, everyone will end up at that goal eventually.
To the LHP practitioner, this gift is to be treasured, valued, and cared for. On the LHP, individual merit has value, both to the Self and to the whole. This Selfhood may be recognized as illusory on some levels, but on other levels, it is stubbornly real, and this tendency can be turned to advantage. While the RHP practitioner may say “The Divine is in everyone, so I will foster it in others before myself,” the LHP practitioner says, “The Divine is in everyone, including me, and it’s up to me to make contact with and to nourish the Divine within myself.” To the extent that one’s Self is functional, effective and adept, one can achieve great things—so why not invest in the Self? It is a valuable vessel, and one worth preserving.
The myth is that the LHP initiate only cares for oneself, and shuns acts of selflessness. This is not true. LHP practitioners do tend, however, to be much more judicious in how and where they distribute their altruism. We recognize that people are altruistic in large part because that’s what makes them feel good. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing this. I would say that many on the RHP spend a great deal of energy denying this is true, and “proving” that their altruism is truly selfless—like that matters in the end.
The major RHP objection is that those on the LHP can have the nerve to just stand up and declare these things. We dare.
This is where Narcissism and Hubris come more sharply into focus.
We see that the basic difference between RHP and LHP is the complex of values placed over the Self, and the vast difference in action that results. Because the LHP works toward the development and preservation of effective Selves, it’s far more important that those Selves be built on solid foundations. A Self entangled in narcissim and hubris is not effective, but the continual concentration of energy and consciousness in a single unit makes that unit very vulnerable to them. We have to work at this every day.
Because of the importance of the Self in the LHP, it is likely the case that those on the LHP work even harder on themselves than do many on the RHP, despite common opinions from the RHP that the LHP is basically all about self-indulgence and moral weakness.
The biggest obstacle in rooting out these two vices is the delusion that we’ve completed the work.