… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Morality

LHP – living without morals

At a certain point in my exploration of and attempted living of a Left-Hand Path esoteric life, my morality was suspended, but this was not a liberated state where I moved unencumbered by external strictures. It was a place without life meaning or significance.

I was caught in the grip of adversarial paralysis.

Some LHP-ers live hedonistic, countercultural lifestyles, turning their upbringing, the norms of the culture they live in and the dominant religion on their heads. They take the above as a guide and do the opposite or a diametrical offshoot of it … but then consider themselves “free” in that adversarial state, without realising that they may have struck off the path and written their own map but their True North is still the things they often despise so vehemently, namely mainstream culture and established religion. If you define yourself in opposition to A Thing you are not free as you still require The Thing to determine your opposition.

If the majority stand BY a wall but you decide to lean AGAINST the wall, you are still in a position relative to the wall. In my mind, the point was to negate the wall entirely and see how freely I could move without any self-imposed limitation (bearing in mind that I live within a world of limits, perceptively anyhow).

If you live in a culture where drinking is “the norm” then choosing to drink absinthe (a common LHP-er’s tipple) is neither original nor daring, it is merely imbibing another alcoholic liquid, albeit one with a romantic backstory. In addition to a pleasant high, the best you might get out of it is to live the lives vicariously of all the poets and social fringe dwellers known to imbibe in the stuff.

In a society where everything is sexualised, down to the social experience and expression of children/childhood to the selling of commodities, then merely having sex a lot, even with multiple partners, even with multiple genders, is not that daring or enlightening per se.

In a society where drugs are the norm from the socially acceptable stimulants and depressants like sugar, coffee and alcohol to the medically widely prescribed opiates and amphetamines, then going to “the man on the corner” for your drug supply makes you neither a maverick nor particularly savvy – play the system better and get your drugs on repeat for free (at least if you live in the UK)!

So in contemplating the above I experimented subsequently with the nominal counter-counter norms of abstinence and celibacy – if you want to live an adversarial position to mainstream culture you might want to announce that you are a celibate, teetotal vegan! … then learn what it is to live in opposition to the norm.

But yet again, this state of opposition merely helped me to shake up my assumptions, I was not liberated from being defined by the things I rejected. I fell into a pit of meaninglessness, a place where neither The Thing nor The Opposite of the Thing had significance or meaning to me. And without meaning I spiraled into depression as I was caught in the grip of adversarial paralysis.

The only way out of this was to admit that what I was doing wasn’t working for me. I began to observe others who appeared happier, more focused and more creative (in their artistic, professional, spiritual and/or emotional lives) than me. And this included the “hippie-dippy-shitty-airy-fairy brigade” – a group of people I was used to criticising and (yet again) defining myself in opposition to. My ego protested, but I remonstrated with it that, up till now, its decisions had been isolating, deflating and unhealthy – in fact un-inspiring (inspire: to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence).

I did a lot of “fake it till you make it” which ironically is a state of aligning yourself against someone else’s norm, hardly an adversarial stance; the difference being that I had to still my shrieking ego. Over time I found my own meaning and significance. The key? To lay aside ego. My meaning? That is not relevant to you as it is my path and my journey, my baggage, history and personal make-up. Your meaning will be uniquely your own.

In freeing myself from defining myself “as X” and “as NOT X” I have managed to step over the fundamentals of right/wrong, which as a social anthropologist I know to be severely culturally determined – no absolutes! (Cf. postmodern relativism) Instead of acting one way or the other in re-action to a moral duality, I now choose to act in accordance with my personal meaning; a meaning that is continuously fed by an indefinable thing that can only be know experientially through practice, study, integration and in-corporation (in corpore – in the body) of both and through putting aside egoic desires to be the same as/better than/different to XXX.

I guess you might define it as a life study in Becoming; I hesitate to say of “Being” – that potentially stagnant and anti-cosmic state of “I am that I am”. Instead I become Atum, self-engenderer from the primal chaos, bridge between what is “not” and what “comes forth” in a process of continuous unfolding.

And that’s another point: the path unfolds as I Become. Defining myself against the moral landscape around me at any particular moment belies the truth of existence. It places a premature and deceptive full-stop against a life that should at any point em-body the pregnant sentiment of dot-dot-dot … to be continued …

©StarofSeshat 2016

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New “Who am I?” page

These are the contents of my new “Who am I?” page, reposted here for your convenience and as a heads-up.

As I stand on the threshold of 2016, after eight years of blogging here, I thought I would write a new “Who am I?” page as my last one had a touch of the “Feck off!” about it. The interweb can make one pre-empt conflict and overcompensate a little.
Having read other “About” pages, I chastised myself and thought I should create one that was a tad more warm and fuzzy. So here goes!

I would say that my formal journey into witchcraft began when I was 17 (I am now 41), although I had had copious experiences with spirits (nature, animal, human and other) for as long as I can remember before then. Witchcraft was both a home-coming and my birth emotionally and intellectually as a Woman. I was initially very much attracted to feminist and Dianic witchcraft which created a powerful, sideways drop-kick counterbalance to 9 years of Roman Catholicism (specifically Benedictine monasticism). I explored my soul crouched in the earth of wheat fields, gazing at the moon, or climbing through woods to a haunted Bronze Age fort that looked out over the valley where I lived on the Welsh Borders of Britain.

Between my early days and a significant ritual in my late twenties, I lived in Germany for a while communing with tree spirits, I travelled to New Mexico where I was adopted by a Navajo woman. Together we travelled the reservation, with me as her daughter and she as “shi’ma” (my mother). I fell in love with the spirit of the desert and the genius loci around my grandmother’s property. On my return to Britain I lived in Edinburgh (one of the most haunted cities in Europe, some people say) where I was often taken over by the spirit of Arthur’s Seat (an extinct volcano on the outskirts of the city) which led me at times to climb up the shear face of the mountain, in the dark, in storms, driven by spirit to reach the top and stand amongst a veritable swarm of entities. In my mid-twenties I travelled to Greece, Turkey, Israel and Egypt. My time in Egypt was brief but my visit to Philae marked my soul as if I was returning to a place I had been to before (the temple itself and the region bordering Sudan).

I realise that I am hot-footing it through the years, merely suggesting spiritual and spirit-based encounters, but there is just not the space here to retell it all. I guess the point of mentioning any of this is to convey the fact that I travelled a lot and wherever I went I engaged spiritually with that location.

Then came a time in my late twenties: I was living alone. My Navajo mother had died. It was Samhain. I turned my kitchen into a shrine to the dead, named and unnamed. I lost myself in ritual for about five hours, during which I danced with Death himself, shed many tears and was reborn spiritually. From that moment onwards I dedicated myself as “witch”, a term I would go on to explore in agonising scrutiny on this blog in its early days (many, many posts have been deleted, those included).

I went through my Satanic phase, my Luciferian phase … I searched and searched for a witchcraft that resonated with the darker shit that I had experienced. Wicca seemed too light, hedge and kitchen witchery too vapid. Now, I can admire what each of those things bring, in isolation, for others, but they just weren’t my paths, however neither were Satanism or Luciferianism. I touched on so-called “traditional witchcraft” but was put off by the bitchy, petty, superior attitude of the adherents I encountered. I began to explore Left-Hand Path traditions (this is a subject I write about a lot on this blog), and I gave myself over to this path for many years. During that time I crumbled psychologically and walked some very dark nights of the soul. I was taken apart and left in pieces. There was no immediate “and put back together again”. For a long time I floated in the blackness; I felt that my experiences of spirit were partially given a context and recognised by the systems I experimented with, but morally I was directionless. In my depression I went past and through duality to having no sense of right or wrong; in fact everything was pointless. I laid myself psychically bare and drifted. Every now and then I would see a light and swim towards it.

I learned about the system of Lucky Hoodoo by Bertiaux. I dedicated myself to the spirits, raised myself up towards the dark sun and became alive again magickally. This lasted about a year before my depression struck me low again. I recanted the spirits … and then followed a year of hell before I realised that I’d struck a contract I couldn’t go back on. So I rededicated myself and began to build things back up again. The Hoodoo spirits remain a part of my daily practice to this day.

Between then and now, I have been deeply involved with Pomba Gira while I worked as an erotic hypnotist. I learned how to siphon the sexual energy off of others to feed to my spirits. And I used this also to strengthen myself. Pomba Gira is known for raising women up from the gutter, especially sex workers, and I was so deeply face down in the gutter I had forgotten a world existed “up there”. She led me to encounters that were to change my life and the way I engaged with this dimension of existence.

It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that the last ten years have been a beautiful incline rising ever upwards and today it’s a “happy ever after”. The darkness still dwells within me. I struggle with it regularly. Being in the dark is a little like vertigo; it gives you a sense of standing on the edge of a cliff, tilting forwards, knowing what it’s like to fall, feeling like you could at any moment … but you don’t. Or sometimes you do. And that’s just the way it is.

These days I work with the Hoodoo spirits and Aakhu (the beautified dead), but also nature spirits (of land, plant and animal) and elements. I am a witch. I could be an Animist. I might have shamanic tendencies. I am open to any beliefs because I am now secure enough to observe them without feeling that I have to agree or engage with them. If you believe something different to me, hail and well met! Life is difficult enough without someone kicking your crutches out from under you. And we ALL have spiritual crutches to hobble through the dark times with. I don’t know The Truth, but I know truths and I keep seeking.

My path is not straight. As my blog’s tagline says, I am “a thought making crooked all that is straight”. This blog charts some of my thinking and explores ideas that occupy my mind and time. You are welcome to dwell here a while and share the journey with me.

Amour! Amour!

Seshat

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Death and morality

Precisely a year ago today I tried to kill myself. My best laid plans were only thwarted by me passing out due to the high dose of pills in my system. However, before going unconscious I did various things of which I have no memory … things that only came to light through hints and clues on the following morning: food left half-prepared in the kitchen, pastel marks all over the floor from the one exceedingly creepy and disturbing drawing I did while “under” and bruises down the one side of my body congruent with having fallen downstairs. I have no memory from the 20th or so pill (I took over 70) until the time I woke and thought, “Shit. I’m still alive.”

So whereas the blogosphere is probably full of annual retrospectives, I can truly say, looking back at my year, that I started it at rock bottom.

Up to that point, my life had been very much focused on the past and the present. The latter merely being a hamster’s wheel sprint from the former. This year I have discovered the joys of looking towards a future.

Things that have helped me this year: new friends, the continued support of Sancho Panza, my rats, my devotion to Pomba Gira and my relationship with the Hoodoo spirits. All variations of inter-personal relationships of one kind or another. The key has been to establish and maintain connection – something that is diametrically opposed to my intrinsic nature, which is solitary and self-sufficient.

Part of LHP philosophy is to separate yourself from the crowd (or “herd” if you are being particularly Thelemic). LHP practices are greatly focused on challenging your preconceptions and assumptions, shocking you out of ambivalence and throwing you out of your comfort zone. The reason for some people (e.g. Luciferians) reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards is not for some Hollywood-esque drama, but in order to shock and challenge what may be a deeply held belief for you; the only way to truly be free of a former belief is to act counter to it, if you find you can’t or you experience internal resistance, then the belief still holds sway over you. Freedom is the aim! Hence the reputation of LHP practitioners for being hedonistic, sex-mad, drug fiends – they deliberately move against the set morals of society to free themselves of the moralistic hold of the masses. Germaine Greer suggested that women would never be entirely free from the constraints of a patriarchal society until they tasted their own menstrual blood – same principle: to be free, you need to overcome the “ugh” impulse that we have for so many things, those invisible bars of our invisible prisons.

This is all well and good. But if you spend your time solely with the sex-mad, drug fiends then sex and drugs become the norm; they morph into the standard of that particular social group and, in my opinion, you are bound and beholden to break those standards as well. Consequently being a celibate in a sex-focused world can be just as much of a revolutionary act as being a nymphomaniac. Ultimately it’s about being honest with yourself and finding out where your own boundaries are and where you stand in relation to society. For example, I have done Ford’s Lord’s Prayer backwards ritual and felt no shock or fear of retribution from a god who didn’t like to be referred to as dog.

Society at large is comprised of smaller social groups – a fractal of human enclaves. The first step in freeing yourself is to become aware of the groups you belong to, and there will be several: your own family will carry its own set of assumed standards; you will have ingested another set at school or in some other institution like the army; then there are the wider norms of society, those things that are generally accepted as right and wrong. By allying yourself with other groups in adult life you take on further sets of memes. And amongst all this there will be overlaps – consider those overlaps as stronger directives, ones that “everyone” agrees with, or do they? As individuals, I rarely meet anyone who seriously suggests contravening the general social ethic “Do not kill”, and yet societies condone mass killing for reasons of politics, oil, wealth and geographical boundaries … strange that we bother to teach our children that it is wrong to kill at all when each generation must see its country head to at least one war “for the sake of xyz”. Some people actively agree with a “just war” [sic] – are they then not agreeing for that moment to kill? And what about those who are anti-war armchair activists, people who shout in the pub about the injustices in the world, but who don’t even vote? Aren’t they at least complicit through non-action with killing? And does “Do not kill” even limit itself to humans? So, I would say that on some level we are all contravening the rule of not killing, even though for most it is an implicit contravention.

The same applies to other major or minor “rules”, there is connivance on some level with everything we, as a society, deplore … even something as extreme as child abuse is given the nod through the sexualisation of children – look at the consumer products aimed at our children who are so often dressed as little whores, forced to parade themselves in skimpy clothing, tiny hands reaching out for the outsized bosomed dolls with boyfriend-accessory. Yes, everything we condemn is at some level condoned in today’s Western society.

So our world has become a greyscale of morality, neither black nor white; everything is permitted, if you just market it the right way. And if you’re doing what everyone else is doing then what social or moral boundary will you challenge? How are you freeing yourself from the masses when you swallow the Consumerist Philosophy LHP™ ©Seriously Dark? Turning to the Left-Hand Path ends up being a mere fashion statement, a shopping list of so-called depravities, a pseudo-spiritual bush tucker trial of things that make you go hmmm. The more you try to be different, the more you become the same.

By trying to commit suicide I committed a socially accepted taboo. Just me speaking openly about it, probably makes some of you feel uncomfortable. Was I right or was I wrong to try to take my own life? As far as embracing taboos and pushing boundaries go, it’s not something I would recommend to everyone. In that moment, I embraced death completely. In fact I had spent my entire life flirting with death, allowing him to cop a feel every now and then until that moment when I gave myself up physically to him. But either he turned me away or life pulled me back and for the first time ever I have learned this year what it is to want to live and see a tomorrow, to long for a future.

I don’t have any answers from the grave concerning social morality, partly because I find the concept of morality to be such a subjective thing, shaped by time, geography, culture, religion, etc. Who can really say what is right or wrong, except the individual who must create her or his own morality to live by? In creating our own morality, we must also accept that it will clash with another person’s self-created meme. I levy equal criticism against the person who never questions their moral framework as I do against the person who rebels against social norms for the sake of rebelling as if purely the action will transform them spiritually, or worse make them “cool”. But in either case the needs and beliefs of the individual cannot and must not be viewed separate from the communal whole. Quoting Dion Fortune:

In the Aquarian Age, or so I believe, there will be a high degree of individualisation combined with a high degree of social integration. This can only be achieved if each individual has a strong sense of social duty; if each citizen says in the true sense, “L’etat c’est moi” [I am the state]. We can judge the rightness or wrongness of any action by extending it in a straight line and asking ourselves what would happen if everyone did that?”

This Kantian idea of universal morality makes good sense but is rarely, if ever employed, and certainly never employed on a wider social level (cf my point above about “do not kill”). And LHP philosophy, as much as I have gleaned, rarely speaks for society but instead for the individual. Some criticise LHP ideas as a source for breeding anarchy and the downfall of society … maybe, IF anyone ever thought that everyone would attempt to follow the Left-Hand Path, which nobody does. It is a path for a few brave/deluded/inspired/depraved [delete as applicable] individuals. So should society carry the burden of these rebelling few? Why not? Both society and the LHP individual move along a greyscale of morality, as shown above, but it is the LHP-er who walks (or should walk!) with awareness of what she or he is doing, and it is awareness that distinguishes the artist who applies paint with discrimination and focus from the ape who trips over a few tins of paint creating an abstract mess on the floor.

And this is the point: whatever you believe, however you create your morality, do it with awareness and with an artist’s eye to your creation. Be true and honest with yourself and your role in relation to those around you and society in general. Paint the full picture, not just part of it; become aware of all the colours in your moral palette, not just the polar shades of black and white. Don’t paint only blue because you see that your neighbour is painting with blue; and don’t stick solely with yellow for the same reason. Don’t be complacent with your artwork because a slight change in the ambient light (a change in circumstances, relationships, health …) could alter your masterpiece completely.

A year ago I tried to kill myself. Tonight I sit here, writing to you, I am connecting with you. The same night, a year apart, different colours, different light. Black is the hardest colour to paint over; if you’re not careful it shows through every other colour, adding a darker tinge to the brightest shade. It’s difficult not allowing the dark of last year to tint my experience of tonight. It takes merely an inward glance for me to return to that spot on the floor with packets of pills all around me. But these days I am painting with colours – my subjective moral universe has expanded from “I” to “thou”. I am connected to and aware of those I consider part of my community. I am in relation to various people who are important to me. Malkin speaking of Martin Buber’s concept of “I” and “thou”:

I-thou relationships … are our paramount source of spirituality. Each relationship is unique. Each partner to it discovers the “thou” in the other, his or her unique personhood. Moreover, as the relationship unfolds, each one discovers his or her own “I”, just as every child discovers his or her “I”, as a result of the developing bond to parents. This is the relationship that takes people out of the solitude into which every human being is born.

I am no longer entirely alone, although I continue to strive for self-sufficiency. I am growing in awareness of my fellow creatures – human and non-human. And as such, my moral horizons are broadening to encompass more than myself and more than a reaction to Other. Awareness and connection form the needle of my moral compass, and tonight they are both pointing towards an acceptance of life. I don’t reject death (we are too well acquainted for that), but I do hope he stays his hand for another year while I enjoy the full range of colours on my palette.

©StarofSeshat 2012