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 #3: Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies
This vice can be a deceptive one; recognizing and addressing it takes clear vision with regards to oneself, and it can be very difficult to see oneself clearly.
In essence, this vice is about forgetting where one came from—forgetting the dogmas and ideologies one has left behind, with the result that remnants from them creep back into the Initiate’s thought process. In this blog, I have both harped on and committed this vice. Examples given by Don Webb include:
“The victim of the religious bigot will become the religious bigot. The former Christian will come to believe in a loving Prince of Darkness. The former skeptic will disbelieve even the results of his own magic and preach against it.”
Human beings are interesting creatures. We have a deep and innate need for affiliation, and this drives a great deal of our behavior. Most people want to feel like they are a part of something greater, and would prefer if it were something they could identify with. However, when it comes to defining ourselves—particularly out loud and to others—we tend to focus more on disassociating ourselves from the things, groups and people we do not want our identities involved in.
It is very easy for someone on the LHP to hold the RHP up as something from their past, but to continue acting and being motivated by ideas that stem from the RHP. It’s easy for a Christian to “see the light,” convert to Paganism, and suddenly see all of the Christian flaws they’ve left behind without noticing the ways in which their own practices still mirror the ones from which they’ve distanced themselves.
Slipping into this vice is detrimental to LHP practice in that it is yet another opportunity for blind spots to emerge in our growth. LHP philosophy is clear and demanding, coming with the imperative that we understand ourselves enough to know, at any given point, where we stand ideologically. Progress is the goal, and regression its opposite. That isn’t to say that any re-adoption of previous beliefs is necessarily a step backwards, so long as it’s a conscious choice—but when we slip into old thought patterns unawares, we are at risk of moving backwards on our paths. Unconscious beliefs and assumptions are among the most consistently hindering forces when one walks the LHP; if we want to assume greater levels of influence over the world around us, we must assume greater levels of self-awareness so that a greater number of our choices and actions are conscious and willed. If we are absentmindedly picking up fragments of old beliefs, we may be running on autopilot too often.
In so doing, we also leave our forward paths somewhat muddled and indistinct. Those on the LHP must have some idea where they are going, and to have that clearly mapped out, one must have a full grasp of one’s current position. This is just as important in terms of one’s inner life as it is in terms of one’s outer life.
Another angle to consider is that Left Hand Path practice can be really challenging. There are times when we know, if we’re paying attention, exactly what the next step should be according to our most deeply-held principles, but acting in accord with that is daunting or even seems impossible. We could be slipping back into old beliefs because they absolve us of the task ahead, or soften the blow in some way. If growth is our goal, we have challenges to meet, and cannot afford to sidestep them with self-deception. Whenever possible, cognitive dissonance should be alleviated by adjusting one’s actions as opposed to one’s beliefs and convictions. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s worth every bit of pain.