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Lords of the Left-Hand Path

Forbidden Practices and Spiritual Heresies

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



About The Book

Examines the left-hand path and reveals the masters of the tradition

• Explores the practices and beliefs of many left-hand path groups, including the Cult of Set, the Hell-Fire Club, and heretical Sufi, Zoroastrian, Christian, and Muslim sects

• Investigates many infamous occult personalities, including Helena Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, the Marquis de Sade, and Anton LaVey

• Explains the true difference between the right-hand path and the left-hand path--union with and dependence on God versus individual freedom and self-empowerment

From black magic and Satanism to Gnostic sects and Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way, the left-hand path has been linked to many practices, cults, and individuals across the ages. Stephen Flowers, Ph.D., examines the methods, teachings, and historical role of the left-hand path, from its origins in Indian tantric philosophy to its underlying influence in current world affairs, and reveals which philosophers, magicians, and occult figures throughout history can truly be called “Lords of the Left-Hand Path.”

Flowers explains that while the right-hand path seeks union with and thus dependence on God, the left-hand path seeks a “higher law” based on knowledge and power. It is the way of self-empowerment and true freedom. Beginning with ancient Hindu and Buddhist sects and moving Westward, he examines many alleged left-hand path groups, including the Cult of Set, the Yezidi Devil Worshippers, the Assassins, the Neoplatonists, the Hell-Fire Club, the Bolsheviks, the occult Nazis, and several heretical Sufi, Zoroastrian, Christian, and Muslim sects. Following a carefully crafted definition of a true adherent of the left-hand path based on two main principles--self-deification and challenge to the conventions of “good” and “evil”--the author analyzes many famous and infamous personalities, including H. P. Blavatsky, Faust, the Marquis de Sade, Austin Osman Spare, Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner, Anton LaVey, and Michael Aquino, and reveals which occult masters were Lords of the Left-Hand Path.

Flowers shows that the left-hand path is not inherently evil but part of our heritage and our deep-seated desire to be free, independent, and in control of our destinies.


Chapter 9
Anton Szandor LaVey and the Church of Satan


Or The World According to the Abominable Dr. LaVey

Anton LaVey was not, nor did he intend to be, a systematic philosopher. He was more a weaver of images--a sorcerous philosopher--a performance artist working in the social and imagistic media of the latter twentieth century. As such, it requires some work and, I hope, some sympathetic understanding to illicit from his written works the essence of his worldview. In many ways LaVey poses some new questions for the would-be follower of the left-hand path. The role of society and of the interaction with other human beings (or the lack of same) become essential to his satanic philosophy. But equipped with the analytical questions I have put to all the earlier schools of the left-hand path, the encounter with LaVey’s Church of Satan yields a great harvest of new ideas about the nature and scope of the path of the left-hand. LaVey’s satanic cosmology will be seen to be materialistic, cyclical, dualistic, and limited. The problem of the position of the will of the satanic magician within this cosmos remains, however.

LaVey’s system of thought was based on a uniquely magical form of materialism. For him all things that exist do so in a material form. There is no such thing as “spirit,” “god,” or “heaven” as commonly believed in and taught by orthodox religions or held by popular superstition. This theoretical idea is the proverbial forest of LaVey’s system, which the trees of individual manifestations of this concept sometimes obscure. It is easier to see the materialism in his understanding of mankind or the workings of magic than in the impersonal abstraction of cosmology. LaVey always begins and ends with concrete things that can be sensed. This approach rarely led him off into abstract speculation.

For LaVey “God” (i.e., the ultimate power in the universe) is Nature and Satan is the embodiment of Nature. This is not to reduce LaVey’s philosophy to pure objectivistic positivism. There is indeed, and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, a definite metaphysics embedded in LaVey’s materialism. The world may be a material reality only, but its functions can be so mysterious that vast amounts of its true character and structure remain hidden from normal mankind’s view and understanding.

For the most part man brings this ignorance upon himself--it is simply more comfortable to be ignorant for most people.

LaVey’s metaphysical materialism is not entirely original. He derived much of it from a number of sources that seem to include the Epicureans (whom he sometimes invoked), de Sade (ultimately de la Metterie), Marx, and Freud (whom he admired). It is this long-standing tradition of philosophical materialism, which more than anything else LaVey identifies as the Satanic philosophy or tradition. Here he is very much in keeping with the attitudes of the Slavs, both ancient and modern, who in their dualistic folk religion identified God with the spiritual world and the Devil with the material one.


The clearest statements made by LaVey concerning the abstract order of the cosmos are concerned with cycles or rhythms. In the Satanic Rituals he wrote two pages (219-20) under the heading “The Unknown Known.” Here he outlines a theory of the successive Ages of the world that cycle or oscillate between Ages of Ice in which “God” rules and man (= Satan) is suppressed and Ages of Fire in which man rules and “God is beneath.” These cycles are governed by the Law of Nine.

First there is a nine-year period characterized by action, then a subsequent nine-year period characterized by reaction to that original impetus. Taken together the eighteen-year span of time is called a “Working.” Nine Workings equal an Era (162 years), and nine Eras add up to an Age (1,458 years), and nine Ages equal an Epoch (13,122 years).

The last Age of Ice came to an end in 1966. This pattern of oscillation between extremes is the clearest abstract model for another leitmotif in LaVey’s thought: dualism. Dualism will be discussed at length in the next section, but another aspect of the cyclical pattern must not be overlooked: that of rhythm. Perhaps welling up from LaVey’s obvious native musical nature and talent is an inherent sense of rhythm. He often writes of the importance of music to magic and even concerning the primacy of rhythm over the actual meanings of words in magical incantations.

The role of rhythms in ordering the world is specifically addressed in a Cloven Hoof article in 1980 titled “Mega-rhythms.” Here LaVey claims to be able to chart future public likes and dislikes “based on one simple rule: the attraction of opposites.” If it’s in today, it’s destined by this mega-rhythmic law to be out tomorrow. The timing of these shifts is presumably somehow coordinated with the oscillation process within the Working eighteen-year period.

“Angles” form another abstract construct that gives shape to LaVey’s cosmology. These “angles”--geometrical models, which seem to have the power to create certain effects in the objective and subjective universes--are most precisely discussed in a Cloven Hoof article titled “The Law of the Trapezoid.” This Law states that figures or spaces made up of obtuse or acute angles (those less or more than 90 degrees) have an unsettling effect on the mind unless they are recognized as such--whereupon they can be empowering and energizing.

About The Author

Stephen Flowers studied Germanic and Celtic philology and religious history at the University of Texas at Austin and in Goettingen, West Germany. He received his Ph.D. in 1984 in Germanic Languages and Medieval Studies with a dissertation entitled Runes and Magic.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (June 27, 2012)
  • Length: 512 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594774676

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Raves and Reviews

“Left-hand-path philosophy finally receives an objective and extremely informative reading from Stephen Flowers, Ph.D. Highly recommended.”

– Adam Parfrey, co-author of Ritual America

“This book will surely be hailed as a classic in its field.”

– Nevill Drury Ph.D., author of Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic

Lords of the Left-Hand Path is an important contribution to the literature of the contemporary magical revival. Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D. celebrates the ‘way of the hero’ and champions the courage of the individual who dares boldly to ‘breach the gates of eternity’. This book will surely be hailed as a classic in its field.”

– Nevill Drury Ph.D., author of Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic

Lords of the Left-Hand Path by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D., is perhaps the most influential work in the construct of the ‘left-hand path’ as a particular current of contemporary esotericism. Flowers draws on a wide range of sources, many of which are exceedingly difficult to find elsewhere, and argues convincingly for his conclusions. This book is essential for anyone who wants to understand ‘the left-hand-path’.”

– Henrik Bogdan, author of Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation and co-editor of Aleister Cro

“Thus then now as ever, I enter the Path of Darkness, if haply so I may attain the Light.” (Aleister Crowley, The Supreme Ritual) Anyone who is aware of the 1980s and its dastardly slanders of Satanic ritual child abuse—incited by a collusion between faux law enforcement, bogus psychology, and a hysterical media—will especially welcome this book. It presents a sober, scholarly, and revealing explication of the true nature of the left-hand path and its most prominent adepts through recorded history. The author makes an essential contribution to rational philosophic discourse while exploring the hidden byways of the Promethean archetype.”

– James Wasserman, author of The Temple of Solomon: From Ancient Israel to Modern Secret Societies

Lords of the Left-Hand Path examines the principle of isolate intelligence and the subjective universe throughout history from ancient India and Iran to Lucifer and the Faustian Age and beyond. It devotes much attention to the revival of the occult, cosmology and Satanic beliefs and practices, being very informative on these issues.”

– Professor Edgar C. Polomé, University of Texas at Austin

“I am astounded by just how much information is in this book, there is no padding or extraneous discussion, it is filled to the brim with information, observation and insight; it will become a classic in its field.”

– Living Tradition Magazine, July 2012

“Thank God for Stephan E. Flowers book Lords of the Left–Hand Path! It’s a vital and much–needed antidote to the hysteria and foolishness surrounding this area of ancient misunderstanding. The author’s thorough historical overview of this ‘path far less traveled’ brings into focus what the Western ‘Christian’ world has missed in its sentimental attachment to their image of Christianity. In fact, Lords of the Left-Hand Path allows the reader an unusually clear lens through which to understand the source of so many of contemporary society’s ills. This book is a serious exegesis of an important spiritual path; a noble path which is only obscure because it has become so maligned by aggressive monotheistic religions. The revival of interest in the occult and esoteric which has been gathering energy over the last century brings hope that the more open–minded and openhearted among us are exploring the spiritual realities for ourselves.”

– Timothy Wyllie, author of The Return of the Rebel Angels

“I recommend this book highly to those who wish to challenge and explore their choice of paths to divinity.”

– Frater U.I.F., Behutet Magazine, October 2012

“I am astounded by just how much information is in this book. There is no padding or extraneous discussion – it is filled to the brim with observation and insight, and destined to become a classic in its field.”

– Robert Black, New Dawn, July 2013

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