© Fra Obnoxion 2013
This article is a translated and rewritten version of my article in our Hylätty Kivi#6 –magazine. One of the parts that I have completely rewritten is this short introduction. I would like to approach the article from a new angle. In this article my aim is to give one definition for the Left Hand Path, and at the same time share a genuine working in the spirit of this definition. Vāmācāra, the left hand path, can be understood as one of the seven paths, and common to its devotees is the practice of the five forbidden substances.
Yet there are more particular definitions. As we take a closer look at the word, we can read it as vāma-ācāra, which means “behavior of the left”, or as vāmā-ācāra, meaning “practice centering on women”. Now this Behavior of the Left can be understood as almost any sort of widdershins-conduct; the rule of the Witch’s Sabbat. Or it can simply mean a series of slightly queer bodily movements that are centered or aimed at the left direction.
This kind of Behavior of the Left has a very particular meaning, which relates to one of the most crucial of Tantric achievements, that is, recognition of Deity approaching the devotee in a hidden form. This is the encounter with a feminine principle, the Dakini. The Dakini usually takes a female form that is lowly, disgusting, horrible, theriomorphic or polluting. Usually even the most advanced tantric adept is only given three chances in a lifetime to recognize the approaching Dakini, and it is an immense though not uncommon tragedy to fail all three times. The old witch spitting on a holy book can actually be a female Buddha, the ignorant washerwomen at the dirty riverbank can be supreme spiritual beings giving religious instructions to Naga Kings, or the limping prostitute offering a piece of stinking meat can be the Goddess of Compassion or Wisdom in one of her more generous moods.
If the Tantrika is truly an adept, he can realize the true essence of these left-sided apparitions. And the way to show his realization is the practice of the Behavior of the Left which is centered on this Woman, this Dakini. And this is one of the original meaning of the Vāmācāra, of the Left Hand Path.
Now my article is an attempt at actual vāmācāra practice in a literal form. I will try to recognize a Dakini in an old religious text, and I will center on this Woman with a sort of literal form of Behavior of the Left, meaning a series of queer and sinister movements, made in such a way that by them a monstrous female character is revealed to be a most spiritual Being in disguise.
In the process I also hope to give an example of a Tantric approach to Western Christian Tradition.
* * *
In the Old Testament, in the First Book of Samuel, we encounter a great hero by the name of Saul. Saul’s story relates to a major turning point in the narrative of the Bible. Before the time of Saul, Israel had been an assembly of tribes, ruled by the last of her Judges, the prophet Samuel. But in these days there rose a will in the people of Israel to unite into a Kingdom proper, and Samuel the prophet anointed as Her first King this brave and capable youth, the warrior Saul. Saul secured the favor of his people by triumphant adventures in the field of battle. But eventually, by transgressing repeatedly against his god, he lost not only the support of the priests and the tribes, but also his divine right to the kingship. This divine right shifted to another young warrior named David.
But here we aren’t interested about David, or even about the future of Israel. Instead we turn our focus to the extraordinary last days of the first King of Israel, the somber figure of Saul. In the 28th Chapter of the First Book of Samuel, Saul is making preparations for his last battle against Philistines. But seeing how greatly he is outnumbered by his foe, he succumbs to unbearable terror. He seeks counsel from his god, but his lord does not answer him, “neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets”. And that is when Saul decides to resort to other means, and tells his servants to seek out for him a woman who has a familiar spirit.
What sort of a woman does Saul mean here exactly? A very particular sort of necromancer, literally, a person claiming to be able to predict the future, by raising the dead. The witch in this story is a medium, or a person who gives herself up as a passive channel for different sorts of ghosts or such entities. In the original Hebrew text it is written that this sort of witch has in her power an Ob. She is capable of magnetizing herself to a special state, where she becomes a tool for the communication and apparition of lower astral shades. In Greek translations this Ob is often mentioned as the Engastrimuthos or “ventriloquist”. Despite modern associations with stage art acts, the term describes a person whose psychic constitution resembles a bottle, wherein a psychic entity has settled, and whose voice can be heard as if from the witch’s mouth. So we are dealing with an entity which functions as a separate persona, and resides in the area of the navel-center. All of this points to what is traditionally called a lower astral shade.
Now what Saul has done in the recent past, and one might add, done it with decisive force, is absolutely forbid any and all practice of the sort of necromancy that we have described above. Yet, despite this drastic reformation he has demanded of his subjects, he himself is about to take part in the very thing he forbid, as he prepares to assemble for the Observances of the Ob.
Saul’s servants find a woman possessing a familiar spirit in the village of En-Dor. Saul travels in disguise to see the witch in her village. But, though not recognizing the disguised king, the witch refuses to resort to her recently forbidden art, saying “behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?”. But as Saul swears to her by his lord, that the witch will not be punished for her help, she abides to his wishes, and agrees to raise the spirit of the now deceased prophet Samuel.
As he arises, the shadow of dead Samuel reveals to the witch the true identity of her mystery guest. But Saul, the famous scourge of the witches, continues to swear that the she will not have to endure a punishment. But the ghost of Samuel, ascending out of the earth, has no good news for king Saul. The solemn spirit rebukes Saul because his transgressions, letting him know that for these the God of Israel has become his enemy, and will deliver Israel into the hand of the Philistines, and cause Saul and his sons to die the following day.
From this dramatic point of events, we digress for a moment to French occultism, and to the thirteenth chapter of the first part of Eliphas Levi’s celebrated work “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie”. Here Eliphas Levi recounts his own experiences of a necromantic ritual he performed, and the technical requirements and practical results thereof. Now the descriptions of Levi bring vividly to mind, not only the general spirit of the story of Saul and the necromancer from the first book of Samuel, but, and this is most curious, many of its details also: Like Samuel, Levi too had a goetic female assistant, though she didn’t end up taking part in the actual ritual; Apollonius of Tyana, whose spirit Levi tries to rise from the dead, is the same sort of bearded father figure to Levi, as Samuel is understood to be to Saul; and both ghosts answer all questions: “Death”.
And though both stories do serve as warning examples, at least Levi does have some positive results in his rapport: “I am stating facts as they occurred, but I would impose faith on no one. The consequences of this experience on myself was something inexplicable. I was no longer the same man; something of another world had passed into me: I was no longer either sad or cheerful, but I felt a singular attraction towards death, unaccompanied, however, by any suicidal tendency. I analyzed my experience carefully, and, not withstanding a lively nervous repugnance, I twice repeated the same experiment, allowing some days to elapse between each; there was not, however, sufficient difference between the phenomena to warrant me in protracting a narrative which is perhaps already too long. But the net result of these two additional evocations was for me the revelation of two Kabbalistic secrets which might change, in short space of time, the foundations and laws of society at large, if they came to be known generally”
But to return to Saul, what were the consequences of his necromancies? Here we meet a man who has truly lost everything! His god has become his enemy; Samuel, his paragon, has risen from the dead to rebuke him and to sentence him to death; he has lost his children, and his family lineage has been snuffed out; all his war-mongering and his violence have come to naught, as the God of Israel delivers His people to the hand of their enemy because of Saul’s actions. And when all these things that Saul held dear and kept close to him escape from him, what is he left with? The very things he had driven away from himself with anger and disgust.
This otherness that Saul had driven away in the hour of his might, and which now had become the only thing standing by his side, when all else has abandoned him, is represented by the Witch of En-Dor: “Then Saul fell straightaway all along the on the earth, and was sore afraid, because the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night. And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have hearkened unto thy words, which thou spakest unto me. But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed. And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted, and killed it, and took flour, and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened bread thereof: And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants; and they did eat. Then they rose up, and went away that night”.
From these explanations we can detect many symbols on necromancy and death, for example the fasting, the exhaustion, the unleavened bread, the going away into the night, and so forth. But the most remarkable thing, the one thing shining through the words, is the immaculate compassion of the Endor-Witch. This ethical excellence has not escaped the notice even of Josephus Flavius, whose priestly position in the Second Temple of Jerusalem (destroyed in 70 BC) lends a special weight to his interpretation. He tells how the Witch, otherwise unable to convince the starving King to eat, pleaded the king to feed himself as a favor to her, who had risked her life and safety to service her King by performing the Rites of Ob for His benefit. Now the tender Witch begged of Him to eat a little, if not otherwise, then at least as a favor to her. Josephus relates that the Witch only had one Calf. This calf was very dear to Her old heart, and she always took good care of the animal, and always fed it herself, “for she was a woman that got her living by the labor of her own hands, and had no other possession but that one calf”. Yet this she killed, and prepared its flesh for her guests to eat, so that they could regain their strength to go out into the night.
And here is what Josephus said of the Witch of En-Dor, in his own words: “Now it is but just to recommend the generosity of this woman, because when the king had forbidden her to use that art by which her circumstances were bettered and improved, and when she had never seen the king before, she still did not remember to his disadvantage that he had condemned her sort of learning, and did not refuse him as a stranger, and one that she had had no acquaintance with; but she had compassion upon him, and comforted him, and exhorted him to do what he was greatly averse to, and offered him the only creature she had, as a poor woman, and that earnestly, and with great humanity, while she had no requital made for her kindness, nor hunted after any future favor from him, for she knew he was to die; whereas men are naturally either ambitious to please those that bestow benefits upon them, or are very ready to serve those from whom they may receive some advantage. It would be well therefore to imitate the example and to do kindness to all such as are in want and to think that nothing is better, nor more becoming mankind, than such a general beneficence, nor what will sooner render God favorable, and ready to bestow good things upon us. And this is enough to have spoken concerning this woman.”
Whose heart remains hardened? Indeed, it is almost as if the words of Jesus of Nazareth, directed at the Apostle in the making on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”, were in part echoing through the centuries, and rising on the lips of Christ from the withered bosom of our Endor-Witch. And indeed, in this apostle of Tarsus, who, like the First King of Israel, was not only a Benjamite by the name of Saul, but also a zealous persecutor, we might see a continuation of a spiritual process, beginning at night in the village of En-Door, and spanning the two Testaments.
In any case, the necromancer’s actions speak loud, and these are the final and the crucial measurements of the soul. And as for us, should we go about as the first king of Israel did, warming our timid hearts with the dim flames of oppression against fear and revulsion? Cherish rather the old witches’ example, not reacting to strangers or horrible apparitions with hatred, but cultivating hospitality as our prime virtue, and making it the measurement of our ability and power. And, how could the Miracle of Unity become achieved, unless by realizing the Self in the Otherness?
But even more than this, the biblical account of these profound rites of Ob offer a glimpse of the most deep mystery of the feminine passivity. Behind endless veils, She is the darkness of every hiding place and buried treasure, the very presence that conjures the up-keep for anyone who has truly accepted its death. This is the unexcelled passivity and femaleness of which Johannes Nefastos speaks of in his Sixth Chapter of Polyharmonia.
And as we learn from Josephus, Saul is just the sort of man who has come to accept his death. For he did not abandon his responsibilities, and he did not attempt to cheat his destiny, but he did that thing which was honorable and right, that is, his duty. And doing this, he expected no rewards, but was calm in accepting that all things are taken away by death. For Saul had done that of which wise men speak of – by the results of his necromancy, he had died before he died. And to no other but such a one, who has thus died to all worlds, and who has no claims for himself, are all things lawful, and to such a one only does the Witch of En-Dor ever butcher her only calf, and offer the up-keep for the stranger in the night. So, as says Josephus, it is not the ones who go to battle with gains and losses in their eye, but the ones that go there to die, that men should call brave. And we can see how the story of Saul unravels a vision of twin snakes, mortification and vivification, entwining and loosening as life and death transmute to each other, changing masks as they whirl around the invisible straightness of the sage’s staff.
Saul’s chosen death is strongly symbolic: he takes his sword and falls upon it. This is the very formula of Mars. When we understand this, we will become able to see through the seeming humiliation of the king. And as Philistines behead and fasten his dead body to the wall of Beth-shan, we will be able to see in these proceedings the exact phases of an esoteric working, communicated in an allegoric form. And just as Saul angered the God of Life, Jehovah, by showing mercy unto Amalek, for the same deed he won the favor of the Goddess of Death. And therefore, when it is written that the Philistines displayed Saul’s armor in the House of Ashtaroth, we cannot but celebrate this occult tribute to the first King of Israel, who found the Grace of the Black Goddess in the Village of En-Dor.
In the end, it seems that the particular questions that both Eliphas Levi and King Saul sought answers to from necromancy, were not the deeper reasons for their dealings with the other side. Rather it seems that their ceremonial necromancies represented a point of culmination for a process of shifting attention towards death. This shift of focus is a natural result of the inner process of dying before dying. Here, the soul of man, when she has become truly profound, forms an intimate relationship with death.
When we consider the profits of necromancy for these two men, they are not such as they supposed before the operations. We can detect a wish that these Obic operations would lend something from death which would make life somehow fuller. Instead an intimate relationship – something akin to a lingering eye contact, or even a kiss on the mouth – is formed, leading to an incommunicable gnosis of death. This gnosis indeed brings enriched life, bringing acceptance and peace. Suddenly the nail to the North is painted red in the compass of life. Just like Eliphas Levi said it, by necromancy he discovered two Kabbalistic secrets which could alter the foundations and laws of society at large. I believe that these secret profits of necromancy might have been similar to the insights of Johannes Nefastos, as found from the third chapter of Necrosophia. Here are his words, that are most fit to end this our article:
Oh, the time is not far away when death will be crowned as a great
liberator, and the decaying body will be raised high as a sacred object of
worship! Just as Europe, in this time nearing its end, has worshipped the
suffering man and the cross, the instrument of his execution, it will, by
the power of the law of chronology and development, take as its natural
ideal his – the Heavenly Man’s, who is our paragon – death. The remnants of
bodies that we hid in the earth as if ashamed shall again be preserved and
respected. The durable power of bones will be raised high, and a skull will
no longer represent terror but a promise for beauty and coming serenity.
The number of suicides will increase as death becomes a rite of initiation
for mankind’s majority. An increasing interest in darkness and mysticism
will replace the lies of the religions of light, and scientists will concentrate their
vigor on revealing the secrets of necromancy.