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 #4: Despair
In Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path, Don Webb relates the vice of despair to the travails of Initiation. As I mentioned in the previous post, Left Hand Path initiation is demanding. One learns early on that achieving one’s highest and most noble goals demands a great deal of self-discipline and self-change.
Self-change is one of the hardest things to accomplish. We seek stability and fear change, often at a primal level, and this is true even when the change is clearly and obviously going to bring better days. A lot of occult literature—both RHP and LHP—stresses the importance of self-change, discipline and excellence. Most authors’ books aren’t going to regale you with tales of their failures, so it’s easy to get the impression that this stuff comes easily to some people. The mere inclusion of a vice like despair in a list of initiatory Dos and Don’ts puts the lie to such a notion; it affirms that it is quite normal to sometimes feel overwhelmed by the tasks to which we’ve set ourselves. People can say over and over again that the LHP is difficult, and somehow people don’t believe them until coming face to face with the work.
Giving in to despair is an initiatory disaster to which I have succumbed many a time (I am actually just now building myself back up after a long period of such despair). The way it usually unfolds for me is that I start getting impatient and frustrated with some of my mistakes, or my failure to reach some simple goal I’ve set for myself. Negative self-talk starts to take root, and I start to think of myself as a quack, a poseur, a charlatan. Then I start asking myself why I ever got into this, what I was thinking, what gave me the chutzpah to step up and declare that I would ever amount to anything.
When you’re stuck inside this, it can be so seductive, and at first glance, seeing a word like “despair” in a list of vices seems strange; but when you read the above paragraph from the outside, it’s easy to see the slippery slope that is despair, and to understand why such a state is a problem—for anyone, but especially someone on the LHP. The work of the LHP is for the sake of strengthening oneself, and negative self-talk that pushes you straight into apathy and giving up is weakening, not strengthening. To give in to despair is to begin actively working against oneself.
As an emotional state, despair is going to happen, and we just need to accept it. Denying emotions that are there won’t help. However, as an ongoing process that colonizes one’s prevalent thought patterns, it should be recognized when it starts, and appropriate action taken. Don Webb suggests finding pleasure in the challenges we face. Adopt a sense of sportsmanship and stop taking yourself so seriously. Stop comparing yourself to your heroes and feeling sorry for yourself because you fall short of a demigod (I need to hear that just as much as I wanted to type it).
Despair is the opposite state to that which the Left Hand Path is meant to cultivate. LHP philosophy stresses that this world, while offering much pain and toil, also offers sublime pleasures that we deserve to honor ourselves by enjoying. The point behind all of the hard work is not to put oneself through misery, but to get more out of life. Like saving or investing money, we recognize that there are “hits” worth taking now to secure a more enjoyable future. When we let despair have its way with us, we’re not only making our present worse, but contributing to a less prosperous future as well.