Lords of the Left-Hand Path by Stephen E. Flowers
I have read Lords of the Left-Hand Path by Stephen E. Flowers. I have previously reviewed three other works by Flowers: Icelandic Magic (review here), Rune Might (review here), and Revival of the Runes (review here). Lords of the Left-Hand Path is, just as the aforementioned books, well-written and insightful. In fact, it is one of the most interesting books I have read as of late – and I have read quite a few books over the last year (not all of which have been subject to book reviews). Thus, I can, without further ado, recommend the book to anyone interested in esoteric matters.
The author details various religious movements from antiquity up until our own time. Although the focus is on the Left-Hand Path and Black Magic (more on these terms further down), the book also highlights other interesting aspects of cults and heresies over the centuries.
Christianity and the Crusades
As stated above, the book is highly interesting and insightful, and in recommending it, I must also point out the following: my main (and perhaps only) issue with the book is the author’s sometimes overly hostile view of Christianity. I am not a Christian myself and certainly have my issues with Christian doctrine (as detailed in Dauntless). However, I deem it necessary to refute the following point: ‘Besides the Crusades, which sent tens of thousands of Christians to their horrible and useless deaths, the church had committed a number of other acts that corroded its previously unquestioned position of spiritual authority.’
This is congruent with an outdated analysis of the Crusades as a religiously inspired war of zealotry against another faith. In actuality, the Crusades were a (late) military response to continuous aggression from the Muslim south. A more recent example is the French conquest of territories in North Africa – it was undertaken to put an end to the transgressions of the Barbary Corsairs who had plagued the shores of Western Europe for centuries (bringing European slaves to African slave-markets). In regard to the Crusades, one can also note that the lands that were conquered by the Muslims had previously been under Roman rule – both Pagan and Christian. Similarly, in Persia the Indo-European religious tradition was replaced by Islam.
In mentioning this, I do not wish to promote a Neo-Conservative Counter-Jihadist narrative – I merely wish to point out that the Crusades were a response to aggression. Therefore, the Europeans who died in the Crusades did not do so ‘uselessly’ – just as the European men who fought against Communism during the last century did not do so uselessly.
A large part of the bok concerns Satanism, more specifically Anton LaVey (founder of the Church of Satan) and Michael Aquino (who started out as a Satanist before becoming a Setian). Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Satanism, and I still know too little to give a definitive statement. Once I start bringing on guests on my channel (either on YouTube/Odysee or in a podcast format), I will interview Styxhexenhammer666 about it for more insights.
At a quick glance, Satanism seems to be a somewhat vulgar response to certain manifestations of American Christianity – I can imagine that Satanism had a certain allure for someone coming from an overbearingly religious household. It is also worth to point out that Sweden has also had its fair share of strange Christian sects. On a personal note, I have grown up in an atheist environment with aspects of Nordic and Greek myth as well as some minor aspects of Christianity. This has led me to have a rather positive view of Christianity – at least in comparison to other Pagans (such as Flowers, as mentioned above). I have elaborated on this at length before, primarily in the Greatest Podcast.
The author notes that Ayn Rand’s Libertarian books were recommended on the Church of Satan reading list in the early 1970s. This is hardly surprising, given the individualistic nature of Satanism. Libertarianism is often a stage that one outgrows – which is evident by the number of former Libertarians who have progressed further along their ideological journeys and thus ended up on the Right. As for Satanism, it could be fair to say that it held a certain level of attraction for different kinds of people – some were drawn to the anti-social aspects, some were drawn to whatever was opposed to a Christianity that they wanted to escape, and for some it seemed that Satanism was a way to explore metaphysics and the esoteric. Michael Aquino, for example, was more interested in the spiritual aspect of the endeavour – disappointed in the ‘showman-y’ direction of the Church of Satan, he broke away from it to found his own Temple of Set (you can hear more about it in an interview with him here).
Lastly, I must point out that Satanism is not something I endorse. In the current year of 2022, being a Satanist is a very safe way to feel rebellious. In fact, it is a lot more rebellious, in the sense that you will take heat from the powers-that-be, to be a Christian. Moreover, the individualistic and Libertarian nature of Satanism is completely outdated in our time. Satanism has never had any appeal for me, and I view it as an expression of modern American culture.
Aleister Crowley – The Great Beast
The author introduces Aleister Crowley, one of the most influential occultists of the last century. We encountered Aleister Crowley in our review of Introduction to Magic: Volume II & III, in which Evola states that Crowley was an accomplished spiritual master – who was ‘extraordinarily qualified’ to follow the Left-Hand Path. Flowers, on the contrary, notes that Crowley was in fact a practitioner of the Right-Hand Path. A large part of the chapter titled The Occult Revival is dedicated to Crowley. We will return to his life and teachings at length in later reviews (or a Podcast episode). Below is Crowley’s definition of magic:
‘Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.’Aleister Crowley
The Right-Hand Path and the Left-Hand Path
As the title of the book suggests, the central theme is to present various religious and spiritual movements and individuals who have embarked upon the Left-Hand Path of magic. A good definition of the Right-Hand Path (white magic in the context below) and the Left-Hand Path (black magic in the context below) is the following:
‘In a precise sense, the distinction between white and black magic is simply that white magic is a psychological methodology for the promotion of union with the universe and pursuing aims in harmony with those of the universe, while black magic is such a methodology for the exercise of independence from the universe and pursuing self-oriented aims. Structurally, white magic has much in common with religion as defined above, while black magic is more purely magical in and of itself. This is why magic as a category of behaviour is often condemned by orthodox religious systems.’Stephen E. Flowers – Lords of the Left-Hand Path. Page 10.
The Tantric Paths
In The Yoga of Power by Julius Evola (read my review of it here), the concept of the Left-Hand Path is elaborated on in the chapter titled Pashu, Vira, and Divya: The Path of the Left Hand. The following quote illustrates it quite well:
‘There is a significant difference between the two Tantric paths, that of the right hand and that of the left hand (which are both under Shivas’s aegis). In the former, the adept always experiences “someone above him,” even at the highest level of realization. In the latter, “he becomes the ultimate Sovereign” (cakravartin = world ruler).Julius Evola – The Yoga of Power
The quote above is not included in my review of Evola’s book, but I thought to add it here since it is relevant to the topic at hand. I re-read the chapter mentioned above after reading Lords of the Left-Hand Path. It is good to re-read books or parts of books when you can approach the writings with a new perspective.
Indo-European Cosmology & Neoplatonism
In the chapter titled The Roots of the Western Tradition, the author discusses the roles of Pythagoras and Plato in regard to the Left-Hand Path, which gives weight to the subsequent chapters, given the importance of both gentlemen in Western esotericism (and philosophy in general). Moreover, the following quote found in the same chapter presents Indo-European metaphysics in a good way:
‘Whether we see it in India or Ireland, in Rome or Greece, the Indo-European cosmology – its understanding of the world-order – hinges of the theory that this world is a material reflection of another, more real one (for example, the realm of gods and goddesses), beyond which looms a yet more real world of abstract principles. In Ancient Greek terms, this is expressed in the intrinsic dichotomy between physis (nature) and psychê (soul).’Stephen E. Flowers – Lords of the Left-Hand Path. Page 62.
In a chapter titled The First Millennium, the author presents Neoplatonism and its chief proponent, Plotinus. He notes that Neoplatonism, with its roots in Platonic idealism, was a decisive influence on all schools of mysticism, such as the Judaic Kabbalah, Islamic Sufism, and various Christian traditions. This becomes apparent when reading esoteric literature due to how often references to the Neoplatonists are made.
At 441 pages, the book is a bit thicker than some of the other ones we have reviewed, but it is well worth the time investment. As already stated, I can highly recommend this book for anyone interested in these matters. I look forward to reading more books by Flowers!