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 #5: Moderation
Ahhh, the moment of truth. This will be the hardest post in this series for me to write; for anyone paying attention to Hermekate’s blog at present, this likely won’t come as a surprise, as I am now publishing a series of posts dealing with the issue of alcoholism. It’s the only item on this entire list that has given me serious pause for thought–the one that held me back for a long time. I also wrote elsewhere that openly sharing my own missteps would be a special point of mine where possible, so I am going to be candid about how I’ve approached this Virtue in the most ill-advised way possible.
From Don Webb’s treatment of this Virtue:
The Sovereign Self knows that nothing outside of itself is essential, nor is anything forbidden…neither addiction nor abstinence are answers of a person that rules his or her life.
Seems straightforward enough. The RHP is usually characterized by an ascetic attitude where the pleasures of the senses are concerned. The physical world is held to be an illusion–at best, a learning ground that is meant to be transcended or escaped, and at worst, a seductive prison for the mind and soul. From the acknowledgement that humans are predisposed to attachment to sense pleasures comes the conclusion that such delights are to be inherently mistrusted, resisted and avoided. The best defense against becoming too engrossed in these things, RHP teachers insist, is never to indulge in them to begin with.
Since the LHP is life-affirming and doesn’t teach us that the physical world is inherently inferior, it wisely observes that from within the context of duality, we are just as limited by our aversions as we are by our attachments. This is similar to the observation that love and hate are not true opposites, that both are ultimately forces that bind the attention to their respective objects. To set up the avoidance of sense pleasure as a guiding principle is just as limiting as making indulgence our first priority, for in the end, the motive power comes from outside the Self. To truly be self-determined is to have the power to grasp or let go of anything, at any time, on a whim.
This is easy enough to understand in the general sense, but I have found that as an alcoholic, a unique conundrum comes up. From the plainest wording of this Virtue, by way of deduction, I came to the conclusion that the only way for me to live up to this Virtue would be to rid myself of my compulsion to drink or do drugs–to train myself to exercise moderation in their use. After all, if I spend my entire life avoiding them, am I not failing to exercise the absolute self-control pointed to in this Virtue? Shouldn’t I be perfectly capable of having a shot or two at the bar to celebrate a special occasion, and then walk away?
If I can’t reach that point, am I an LHP reject?
Oh, what an exquisitely destructive bit of self-deception this became. Its destructive effect was so obvious on the surface, but the struggle went on and on. I had honestly convinced myself that I was going to win over my problem or die trying.
I don’t have a definitive answer here; given my situation, I guess I just have to make do. In order to reverse the damage this conclusion was doing to me, I had to reverse the thinking that led to it. Flipping from deduction to induction, I reasoned a path from the instance of addiction to the overall condition of moderation that I sought. Perhaps, in a perfect case, the LHP initiate would be able to eventually slough off the conditions that lead to addiction, but if one can’t achieve that, one must settle for the next best thing. Absolute freedom from addiction may not be possible, so relative freedom must suffice. In order to be the best person that I can be, I simply can’t drink. That is the optimum condition for this LHP initiate. Sure, I’d be more liberated if I could get over this, but after a certain number of years struggling to tame the bull, I let it throw me off. Fine, I get my chaps muddy. My black hat is marred and bent, but it’s still recognizable as a black hat.
There is an important LHP lesson in this: Perfection is a lie, and it is not the goal. The LHP itself is founded on the recognition that no such thing as perfection can abide in the realm before our eyes. The very core of LHP practice is constant improvement, which is precluded by perfection. We dwell in the world of Becoming, where there is no room for perfect circles. Growth is an ongoing, dynamic process. We strive not for stasis, no matter how sublime.