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.
Virtue #1: Magical Curiosity
We now move to the Virtues of Left Hand Path Initiation – those qualities that especially suit one for LHP work, or should otherwise be cultivated by the aspirant. Like the vices, the virtues are not so much fixed objects as they are processes that unfold in the life and work of an LHP Initiate.
I love the way Don Webb opens his treatment of this virtue:
“The daemonic level of the world is maintained by the actions of coherent and transformative systems. These are seldom the systems you can learn about in an occult bookstore. If true Secrets were found in such places, then your fellow customers would be the most powerful people on Earth. The true systems may have their broad outlines available there, but the hard work of finding out how these things actually work is the Initiate’s job.”
I was initially introduced to the world of magic by a friend who soon became a direct mentor. What he taught me was much less a system and more a set of techniques that I have applied within established systems with results that have sometimes been wonderful, sometimes humdrum, and sometimes terrifying. The process of discovery has borne its own fruits, whatever the final outcome of any workings might have been. This is something that I hold as crucial to magical development.
Magic is a technology, yes; it can be studied, its theoretical mechanics worked out intellectually through such study, and whatever opinion the student winds up holding as a result will be somewhat sound on the surface. One thing that merely reading about and pondering magic will never confer is understanding, because the technology is only one side of magic. It is also one that draws very heavily from one’s inner life, which means that experiences are crucial in informing one’s relationship with magic. One might read accounts of workings and find themselves convinced that magic is real, but nothing will do the trick like doing it. Conversely, one might conclude from the assemblage of facts before them that it is all nonsense. Nothing will dispel such a notion like picking up a dagger or wand and getting busy. As such, much more than a technology, magic is an experience. It becomes a lifestyle and a philosophical outlook with time.
Magic has been responsible at times for bolstering my belief in a spiritual reality, but it has also—surprisingly—been responsible for dissolving many of the conclusions I initially drew from the experiences that lent support to such a belief. Some of the magical practitioners and teachers that I respect the most are atheists who have given magic the benefit of the doubt and found that there is something to it even though what they experienced was never enough to shake their materialist convictions. That says a lot, don’t you think?
Don’t you find that intriguing?
If not, then perhaps you don’t have magical curiosity in your blood. I know I do, and such tantalizing possibilities have resulted in many magical experiments. Ultimately, being bold, taking a few risks and directly engaging with magic is the only way you will ever understand it.
“The map is not the territory.”
-Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity
Magical curiosity means more than just engaging with magic to come to more definitive conclusions; it also means questioning the discoveries you make, whether they be ones you read about or ones you made on your own. It is perhaps even more important to question your own discoveries. What do they really mean? What conclusions can be drawn from a given set of events and experiences? Are all of them equally feasible? Do they ring true? Do they make sense? Are they coherent with your other discoveries? If not, then you need to dig deeper or abandon the quest.
Magic in this sense is also a science, as being a magician means testing theories through practical exercise, and revising them based on results. Magical curiosity means striking a balance between being open to new experiences and the willingness to scrutinize them sufficiently.
Magical curiosity also means never really settling down into one comforting worldview or theory; it becomes a lifelong process of learning and growth. In this, we can see that there really is no end goal of becoming some kind of wizard and living out the rest of your days playing with your metaphysical toys. It means you don’t even have a destination at which to arrive. It means you’re always going places. To accentuate this, I will end with one more quote from Webb’s treatment:
“The LHP Initiate knows that each answer leads to nine more questions—and the quest of getting those answers IS the very Path itself.”