Hello ladies and gentleman, welcome to the first 12 pages of my presentation on Taoism and the left hand path, that was supposed to have been given at the International LHP Consortium. I was sadly not able to attend, but thought I’d post this here for those who might be interested in what I would have droned on about for 30 mins or more.
My name is Vincent Piazza, and I will be your guide and master of ceremonies on this trip from west to east. I believe it is best to start my talk defining what the Left hand Path is, or at least how it is perceived in the current parlance of western occultism.
The best description that I’ve come across of a practitioner of the LHP has been given to us by Dr. Stephen Flowers in his well written and legendary text, Lords of the Left Hand Path. I shall summarize now…
To start with, his criteria for being considered a Lord of the Left Hand Path are Deification of the Self, and Antinomianism.
In his own words:
“The first criterion will be seen to have four distinct elements:
Self-deification – attainment of an enlightened (or awakened), independently existing intellect and its relative immortality.
Individualism – the enlightened intellect is that of an individual, not a collective body.
Initiation – the enlightenment and strength of essence necessary for the desired state of evolution of self are attained by means of stages created by the will of the magician, not because he or she was ‘divine’ to begin with
Magic – practitioners of the left-hand path see themselves as using their own wills in a rationally intuited system or spiritual technology designed to cause the universe around them to conform to their self-willed pattern
The second criterion, antinomianism, states that practitioners think of themselves as ‘going against the grain’ of their culturally conditioned and conventional norms of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. True Lords of the Left-hand Path will have the spiritual courage to identify himself with the cultural norms of ‘evil’. There will be an embracing of the symbols of … whatever quality the conventional culture fears and loathes.”
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? Who in their right mind would want to take such a dangers path full of uncertain gain and the certainty to become a social outcast? Let’s try and answer the question, shall we?
For Example, Modern Satanism is, in the West, essentially what one certain form of Tantrism is in the East, i.e. the primary form of anti-nomian religious and moral dissent from mainstream herd practice. This is characterized in BOTH by a preference for the physical and material over the purely spiritual; physical pleasures over physical denial, and the fully acceptable use of magic for selfish worldly purposes. This pretty much describes those elements common to the “Left Hand Path” in both Western (LaVeyan, Setian, Theistic, Gnostic, Zen-Baptist..Ok, I made the last one up, but if they don’t exist, they do now. ) and Eastern (Tantric) usage of that term today. So clearly the Left-hand Path encompasses both Modern Satanism and one (or even a few if we bring the Red Hat Taoists in to the mix) of the forms of Tantrism.
Tantrism can be found in Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist varieties. Hindu Tantric practice is generally divided amoung two paths; The Vamamarga (or vamacara or vamachara) or “Left Hand Path” or red tantra and the Dakshinachara or “RightHand Path” or white tantra. The most obvious but not the only distinction between these two is that LHP Tantra involves actual sexual practice as part of its rituals while RHP tantra uses non-sexual yoga practices instead. It is interesting to note that in common usage in India today, the term “Tantra” has come to mean “black magic” while in the West that term has come to refer to hippie-like “sacred sex” yoga classes. Experts say both interpretations cloud the full picture of what Tantra is fully about, and I agree completely that new interpretations are needed, but we must work with what we have.
There is little question that Tantra (both Buddhist and Hindu) arose in part as an anti-nomian revolt against restrictive mainstream Vedic, Buddhist and even Muslim morality. So those who would say it has nothing to do with taboo-breaking are quite obviously wrong. Taoist forms of Tantra are much more sexual and dare I say pragmatical then the Buddhist and Hindu forms, as the primary purpose behind Taoist Tantra is the transformation of sexual energy into healing energy and vitality, resulting in better health and potential immortality. The primary Taoist technique to achieve these healing effects is called the inward orgasm (in-jaculation), whereby the orgasmic energy rises up the spine, stimulating the endocrine glands, energy systems, nervous system, and organs. Taoists teach that an inner orgasm (in-jaculation) stimulates life and vitality, while the outer orgasm (e-jaculation) brings death or loss of health and vitality. An in-jaculation is the most effective tool for transforming a physical orgasm into an energetic orgasm. Of course, there are even higher levels of orgasm as well, including a soul-level, total-being orgasm.Hindu Tantra and Taoist Tantra are each an ancient form of sacred sexuality. Also, in both traditions, sexuality is practiced in a spiritual context. Nevertheless, the differences are very distinct. For example, Hindu Tantra uses more ceremony and ritual, while Taoism is more scientific and focuses on the body, its meridians, and energy systems. Hindu Tantra is an art, while Taoist Tantra is a science (and when you strip away the Jade Rabbits and Red Cocks, Very Left Hand Path).
Let’s turn back to the West for a moment, shall we?
Prior to LaVey, not many occultists running around in funny hats and applying the term “Left-Hand Path” to their work or to anyone else in a positive way in the West. As far as I can find, the term first appears as a perjorative in Western literature in Helena Blavatsky’s “The Secret Doctrines” of 1888 in which she uses it as a blanket term for bad-guy, I dress-in-black-and-eat-babies, selfish, materialistic, evil black magicians.Blavatsky postulated that from the days of Atlantis there have been evil adepts of the Left-Hand Path who used their Black Magic for self-serving,materialistic and destructive purposes as contrasted with their opponents, the adepts of the Right-Hand Path who only pursue alturistic magic for the betterment of others (much like the Democrats and Republicans see themselves today). She obviously picked up (and partly misunderstood) the term “Left-hand Path” during her long study in India because the term does not appear in her earlier work, “Isis Unveiled” at all. In subsequent writings, Blavatsky’s disciples have specifically made this moralistic judgmental error in understanding of the basis of Vamacara or Left-hand Path segment of Tantrism.
it is pretty safe to assume that LaVey read Blavatsky and rejected almost all of her philosophy even to the point of recognizing himself and his outlook as the villain of her cosmology. When she shuddered about selfish Black Magician of the Left-hand Path, LaVey probably smiled, stroked his goatee, and recognized himself in that role. This was apparently the extent of Tantrism’s influence on the Satanic Bible and LaVey’s other works, since LaVey never mentioned it ( He was much to busy wearing Fedoras and fucking movie stars, so who could blame him?). But even badly filtered through Blavatsky’s misinterpretation, the essential truth of what the Left Hand Path is all about was recognizable to Lavey: indulgence instead of abstinence, pleasure instead of pain, selfishness instead of altruism, flesh instead of spirit.But, while Vamachara Tantra and Modern Satanism are both Left Hand Path, there is an essential difference between the two that keeps Tantra from being strictly speaking, “Satanic.” Modern Satanism expects its adherents to be their own gods without any need for personal instruction or permission from any guru to be a “Satanist.” Vamachara Tantra however is not so individualistic and, in fact, strictly requires its initiates to study under the tutelage of a Tantrik guru. Tantra teaches that performance of the rites of Vamachara without the oversight of a guru will not only be ineffectual but warns that it might even be dangerous. So while both Vamachara Tantra and Modern Satanism are both LHP, Tantra cannot truly be said to be “Satanic” per se in the sense that Satanists use the term.
So, The purpose of the LHP is the unfoldment of a higher consciousness,To become as a God, Goddess, or an Immortal. We do this in order that we may obtain a better understanding of cosmic law, and how to break it. This is how the great work is looked upon by most of the Left Hand Path. Those on the Right Hand Path often look at it as a trip back into the all-powerful Supreme Creator who is concerned with and involved in macrocosmic (universal) as well as microcosmic (individual) matters.This subsumption into the ALL can be brought about by an individual’s efforts and faculties to serve in conformity with the Will of this Supreme Creator.These two Ideas on what the Great Work is may blur and shift depending on who you ask, and what funny Hat they may have on at the time. Eliphas Levi, one of the first modern “ceremonial magicians”, defined the Great Work thus:
“The magnum opus is pre-eminently the creation of man by himself, that is, the full and complete conquest which he can make of his faculties and his future; it is pre-eminently the perfect emancipation of his will.”
The modern incarnation of the Golden Dawn defines the Great Work as “a term borrowed from alchemy’s magnum opus. Refers to the path of human spiritual evolution, growth and illumination, which is the goal of ceremonial magic.”
And then we have The Great Work within Thelema,who say it is the process of attaining Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel and learning and accomplishing one’s True Will.
According to my old friend Don Webb, the Great Work on the Left Hand Path is a quest for Sovereignty. It seeks four types of rulership:
• Rulership of the Inner World
• Rulership of the Outer World
• Royal Power in the Outer World
• Royal Power in the Inner World
He then tells us that the basis of the Left Hand Path is that humans are but machines, but may in potential become gods. That statement alone sums it up,When this higher consciousness and Immortality take form in action, we shall develop more skill in applying our knowledge of cosmic law to the solution of every-day problems.No Longer Robot,but acting as if we are Gods, we become Immortal. To succeed in this understanding we must learn how to control and direct a force which, although it is occult, is really “hidden in plain sight,” inasmuch as everything in our environment is a manifestation of it. The first step toward gaining the knowledge which shall enable us to control and direct this power is to learn that although many names have been given to it, all these names are attempts
to describe a single reality.More than 5000 years ago, the ancient Chinese Taoists came to the understanding that everything is composed of the same energetic substance, which they called Qi (pronounced “chee”). These ancient masters observed that there is a oneness and wholeness in all existence and that everything is energetically
interconnected as one body.
This brings us to Taoism, ladies and gentlemen, the meat and potatoes of my talk. As the consciousness of the early Chinese moved from superstitious defensiveness to volitional empowerment, people began to realize that direct action was more effective than religious ritual in influencing events. In early China this option of personal assertion as a response to unfolding circumstances first appeared in The Book of Changes, the I Ching. Its essential subject was the interplay between a constantly changing world and a self-conscious individual who was seeking options within these shifting circumstances. How was such a person to act within perpetual change and uncertainty, between what is and what will be? The obvious answer was to anticipate the changes by attempting to read the movement of circumstances, and then change them, avoid them, or be prepared for them. For a culture closely connected to the soil and the rhythms of the seasons, the Chinese became aware that all changes were linked to the ordered change of natural processes. Changes were not random or meaningless; they were bound by the character of the world itself and could be read in the images and rhythms of Nature. Human nature was part of Nature. Together the two rose and fell in patterns and cycles of growth and decay, birth and death. The similarities between inner and outer movement were noticeable and clear. The I Ching measured these movements so they could be harmonized with each other. But it also measured something else. The insight that defined individual volition became the first conscious separation between inner self and outer circumstances. The spiritual integrity of all being was consequently divided, and the magical wholeness of a solely religious existence was fractured by the effort to control events directly. Attention shifted from passive ritual toward active influence.
Although The Book of Changes recorded and then described this newly emerging relationship between the inner and the outer, it did not offer a resolution to the resulting split that now divided the sense of spiritual oneness.
A more sophisticated thinking was required to resolve this dichotomy.
In the structure of the I Ching and within its underlying assumptions was the resolution. The tradition that evolved from the I Ching held that two interactive elements influenced events. The first was the great force of circumstances, the universal principle that pervaded everything. This omnipresence was soft and nurturing but it was also hard and unfailing, both an energy of creative generosity and an inflexibility of order that was determined by the integrity of itself. Although immediate and obvious, this principle was also beyond thought and knowing. Because it was beyond words it was simply called the Way, the Tao. The second element was the virtue-power of individual character, the Te.
Itcould be reached through tsowang, ”sitting with blank mind,”² by finding ”the mind within the mind,” or hsin tsung, the still place in the center of consciousness that was somehow connected to the Tao through the oneness of the inner and the outer. Now, One of the concepts that exists on the left-hand path is the idea of going against nature.
The same thought appears in Tantra and the Qabalah (including the Qlippoth) ,to raise the Kundalini or combine with Kether, you must walk backwards to the time when the universe was void or Ain.The Right and Left Hands of magic both have ways of going about this, and although the end goal is different,the methods and technology is often the same thing with a different colored robe on.As a Taoist and a LHP magician I see things from a more “Flowing with the water” point of view then most of my peers. The end result of the Left Hand Path is Immortality,or Divinity,and that means becoming less human,not more.when we tend to immure ourselves to the human contortion and push against what is coming at us from the void, we have a tendency to become sad,lost and all the more mortal then ever before.But,if we stand still and let stream flow around us,and watch the way currents and ripples happen in our lives,we can see just the right step to move sideways and progress along our way. In my Work it’s all about using the flow of Qi (power,Magic,Prana,The Force,pick one,go home and re-think your life :) )in the most subtle way,the small step,the pebble that moves mountains.Sometimes this pebble needs to be Adversarial, thrown forward against the stream to make a ripple ahead of me causing strife that brings much needed change.At others,I must turn and skip my rock with the current,letting it become a spiral that creates life,feeds the fish of my stream with the energy that my intention stirs .As long as I stand firm, and move from side to side,the dead trees and bloated Cow carcasses that come my way can be avoided. I also believe that both the goals of Taoism and the LHP are the same. You just can’t get around the subject of Immortality in Daoism and if you put a group of adversarial Art workers in the same room for any length of time, someone is going to bring up Godhood.
Traditionally, as I’ve brought up earlier and in the Hindu usage the Right Hand Path and Left Hand Path have precisely the same goal: union with divinity .The difference is the polar opposite approaches, denial vs transgression. .When you talk about it from a Daoist point of view,the RHP idea of becoming one with god is thrown out the window and then stood on it’s head because the only goal of Daoism is the actual attainment of Immortality.Most,if not all of the Gods,spiritual beings and Immortals in the Daoist canon were once mortal.Each Immortal was just an average Joe or Jane till they learned Self-cultivation and spiritual powers. How,you may ask?.By eating Herbs and Plants at the right times and places,using metal and mineral to make a pill,Internal alchemy or a visit from a God, Goddess or Immortal, who decide to give the lucky sucker Immortality for some great task he or she preformed. The LHP has yet to find it’s sea legs when it comes to an agreement on how to go about Godhood,and what to do with it once you’ve obtained it.But the oldest system on the subject known to man,Daoism,has had it down cold for thousands of years.They break it down in to three types….
Earthly Immortals=these guys and gals live life to the hilt,look young till they kick the bucket and at the end of their lifespan,around 100 years or so,will choose when they want to push up the daisies and do so in peace.Most go to a mountain,put wax in their nose and ears,and watch the Dao do it’s thing…but some stay in town and teach or take care of their families.
Corpse-Freed Immortals=Sometimes those Earth bound Immortals in the mountains figure out how to walk away from their bodies after death and no longer have to be reborn,by finding the trick of it from long meditation, and said wax plugs,they can go to any plane of existence they fancy.
Heavenly Immortals=This is the Brass Ring,the full Monty,the best of the brightest.Often it is said they mount up on a Crane or Dragon and rise to the big blue ( or Jade) castle in the sky,staying young and powerful forever more.Heavenly Immortal are usually minted into gods at some time and given a Portfolio to watch over (the God of Luck,Prostitutes,String Cheese…you name it)
But how do I become one,you may ask, with your Inverted pentagrams and calling of demons? well Master Ling,the teacher of Stuart Alve Olson,said it best I believe..”If you want to be an Immortal,Stop doing all the mortal things you do!”
Let’s back track for a moment and look at the forefathers of modern Taoism, shall we?
Tradition has assigned the origin of Taoism to Lao Tzu, a mysterious sage who may have been born in 604 B.C. or 597 B.C. or perhaps in 571 B.C., at Ch’u Jen or Ch’en or K’uhsien. he may have been born somewhere else at some other time, or perhaps not at all. The most basic information about Lao Tzu is either missing or is so mixed with contradiction or fancy that it argues against his existence. One of the more credible stories has him Keeper of the Archives of the Chou court in 374 B.C., but this date does not coincide with the traditional time of his birth or with the conversations he reportedly had with Confucius, who by this time would have been dead for about a hundred years. Another curiosity in the traditional Lao Tzu story has to do with his Ears. Almost all depictions of the Buddha, whether in India, Thailand, or China, show him with large or long-lobed ears. That Lao Tzu should also be long-lobed is more than a coincidence, a clear effort to connect Taoism and Buddhism. Did Taoism affect the image of the Buddha or did later Buddhists influence the story of Lao Tzu? And who the fuck cares? The likely answer is that the influence of Buddhism in China from the first century on- ward retroactively altered the story of Lao Tzu, making the details of his life even more elusive. The various stories about Lao Tzu usually agree, however, that he become disillusioned with Chinese society, said fuck this shit, and at age 90, 160 or 200 years he disappeared into the western wilderness after presenting to the last gatekeeper of the Middle Kingdom a written record of his wisdom. Later, when Buddhism arrived in China, the Chinese recognized this Indian teaching as a simplified version of Taoism, concluding that it had been taught to the western barbarians by Lao Tzu himself.
To make things even more pear shaped when it comes to Taoism, Chuang Tzu, the second most important figure in Taoism, is almost as enigmatic as Lao Tzu. The only historical reference to him is a brief description by Ssu-ma Ch’ien (145P-89? B.C.) in the Shih chi, or Records of the Historian¹ The scant details of his life have been so mixed with legend that he is more a character of fiction than fact. And, as with the Lao Tzu, there is no way of knowing whether the work attributed to Chuang Tzu is the creation of one person or the compilation of a number of thinkers. Chuang Tzu’s life is traditionally set at 369-286 B.C. or perhaps 350-320 B.C., although he might have died as late as 275 B.C. He may have been a contemporary of the Confucian teacher Meng-tse, known as Mencius (372?-289? B.C.), but there is such a paucity of information about Chuang Tzu that by Zeus’s nut sac he could have been hanging out with the Greeks and had the role of adviser to Alexander the Great, who defeated the Medes and Persians in 335 B.C.. scholars can only assume he existed. Since he is presently a part of Taoist consciousness it is easier to talk about him as if he existed than if he did not, which says something about the way historical figures can be created out of the thinnest of shadows (I’m looking at you Jesus, now get off that cross, we need the wood). Scholarship, quite rightly, gives more attention to the writings than the writer.
The Cambridge scholars seem to agree that the aphoristic stories, the playful humor, and the brilliant logic of the Chuang Tzu have sharpened and elaborated the wisdom of the Lao Tzu. Furthermore, its style has lightened the sobriety of Taoism and has continued to shift it away from words, conventions, and systems. But a critical reading of the Chuang Tzu provides no evidence that its author was or authors were even aware of a Lao Tzu or the writing attributed to him. In the body of literature that is assumed to be authentic, the Chuang Tzu neither refers to the Old Master nor quotes from him. Several similar phrases are used that could have come from the Lao Tzu, but they could also have come from the body of oral tradition that would have been widely available at the time. Not only is there no definitive Lao Tzu or Chuang Tzu, there is no definitive link between the writings attributed to them. The possibility exists that the Chuang Tzu was a refinement and an amplification of the Lao Tzu, but it is more likely that the work is from an independent and parallel group of writers or thinkers whose ideas were later linked to the Lao Tzu by those who were trying retroactively to make sense of a style of thinking that was later known as Taoism. Indeed, if there was no actual character known as Lao Tzu, this may account for the failure of the Chuang Tzu to mention him. Even without Lao Tzu, however, why would the Chuang Tzu make no allusion to this earlier body of writing that was apparently of such seminal importance to Taoism? No one knows, and no one fucking cares.
That’s right folks, the two most holy books of Taoism could have been written by fictional masters of misdirection, and for 10,000 years no one has given a shit. Why? Because the words within those two books speck to a part of ourselves that goes beyond logic, they make sense to the gut, not the head. By using the gut or your Hot Cognition, you can make sense of the senseless, and stop caring if the senseless doesn’t make sense.
What I’m talking about here are two tightly linked concepts: the first is wu-wei ( pronounced ooo-way) and the second is de (pronounced duh, as in “no duh moooom”) Wu-wei literally translates into English as “no trying” or “no doing”, but before you light up a joint and grab a bag of funniesyns, let me tell you that it in fact refers to the dynamic, effortless and unselfconscious state of mind of a person who is optimally active and effective. When in the state of wu-wei the Taoist feel as if they are doing nothing, while at the same time they might be creating the next Picaso, smoothly negotiating a complex social situation, or even bringing their entire world into harmonious line with their will. For a person in wu-wei, effective change and the warping of the fabric of reality ( I.E. Magick, you can add a K here if you like, I don’t mind) follows as automatically as the body gives in to the seductive rhythm of the macarania ( well perhaps not, but you can fill the song pick in your head.) …….
The rest may be posted at a later date if folks ask for it, but this is enough for now, Just not in the mood to edit the rest of it, and I’m a lazy bastard these days.
Stay Gold folks…
Taoism and the Left Hand Path (the first 12 pages of my talk for the LHP Consortium ) was originally published on The Hidden Left Hand