Interview with Dr. Tomas Vincente, Author of “The Faceless God”
Dr. Tomas Vincente is the author of Theion Publishing’s release The Faceless God, a true tour de force on the Gnosis of the Left Hand. He has been a practitioner and researcher of the occult Arte for more than two decades. In his ‘profane’ life, Dr. Vincente is a respected professor at a North American University and author of various academic works relating to esotericism.
T.P.: The Gnosis expressed in your book is said to be of the ‘Left Hand’. Of course we know that there are as many definitions of Left Hand Path and Gnosis as there are practitioners and unfortunately it is exactly this occult environment in the West which often seems to attract shallow and confused individuals. This is also reflected in the flood of so called ‘Left Hand Path’ releases which more often than not seem incoherent, badly researched and rather shallow – apparently not much more than “goofy black metal lyrics strung together” as a UK magician once so adequately and ironically stated. Of course, in the East but also in the West there are very serious and sophisticated Left Hand Path environments but these are rare (Theion Publishing’s first release ever, Liber Nigri Solis by Victor Voronov, is now considered a milestone in serious Left Hand Path publication). What is your definition and understanding of the ‘Left Hand Path’ and how is it reflected in your book and work?
T.V.: The Left Hand Path, in my understanding and practice, is an occult methodology aimed at liberating the initiate from the forces of social and cultural indoctrination and revealing the inner daimonic essence of phenomena. This revelation is not only a theoretical understanding but a gnostic apprehension, which unites the practitioner symbiotically with the chthonic spirits. Inasmuch as this process requires one to transcend the status quo it involves antinomian aspects, which may appear to the uninitiated as “Satanic” or diabolic. In the current occult scene, unfortunately, the LHP is often construed simply as a path of transgression, diametrically opposed to the RHP. This dualism is sometimes expressed in terms of the distinction between transgression and submission: whereas the LHP practitioner seeks to become a god—a self-sufficient and potentially immortal being—the RHP practitioner passively submits to the only true God of the monotheistic traditions. But in fact this extreme dichotomy represents yet another static, binary opposition that must be transcended. In the LHP as I understand it, in line with the objectives of Kosmic Gnosis, which we will surely discuss later, there are aspects of Dionysian submission as well as willful Apollonian assertion. The conception is essentially shamanistic: in merging with the daimonic powers we serve as vehicles for their spiritual embodiment in the world of phenomena—we allow ourselves to be possessed—and yet, in and through this possession, this mating with the Meonic energies, we also realize our true or essential Selfhood, that noumenal core of the Self, which is a unique and non-repeatable nexus or gateway for the spirits. The uniqueness of the individual lies in the peculiar mode through which we function as an opening from the Meonic to the phenomenal realm, a unique constellation or microcosm of the World All. Above all, I would stress, the LHP is not at all about transcending the cosmos, in a fit of childish indignation fuelled by nihilism and misanthropy. This anti-cosmic approach seems to be gaining ground presently and it represents the extreme expression of the false dualism just mentioned. While the chthonic powers are in some sense the inverse of the phenomenal world, they are not its negation but its noumenal source and well-spring. The dead are the source of all life, and the Black Sun is the source of all Light. Thus in following the LHP we are not led above and beyond the cosmos, but deeper into its chthonic depths, and the result of our initiation is not a hatred of the body or of the world, but a profound love and joyful affirmation.
T.P.: What are the central themes of The Faceless God and what are some of the areas you present which have not been treated in other works before?
T.V: The book has a triple focus—Lovecraftian, Egyptian and Sabbatic—which may seem bizarre at first glance. Through an initiated reading of Lovecraft’s fiction, relating especially to the figure of Nyarlathotep, certain hitherto unexplored connections are revealed between European witch lore and the Egyptian mysteries of Osiris and Anubis. The claim that there was a germ of truth beneath the diabolical stereotypes and accusations of European witchcraft was advanced long ago by Margaret Murray, who argued that witchcraft was an organized cult of pagan origin, which had somehow survived the processes of Christianization. My argument is much more subtle, and closer in spirit to the more recent research of Carlo Ginzburg. I would not speak of an organized witch cult, but rather of diverse and analogous survivals of shamanistic practice, which carried forward certain symbolic and ritual elements of archaic and pre-Christian origin. The most novel aspect of my argument lies in the unearthing of the deep symbolic resonances between the lore of witchcraft, relating to the black man and the Goat of Mendes, and the archaic fertility cult of the ram-headed Banebdjedet, who was a totemistic representation of Osiris—or more precisely Osiris in union with Ra in his netherworld aspect, Osiris as the Black Sun. The figure of Nyarlathotep serves as a bridge between these esoteric currents. He is a fictionalized expression of the god of the depths, the dark psychopomp who reveals the mysteries of the Black Sun—the Egyptians knew him as Anubis, and in European witch lore he is described as the black man of the Sabbath, the initiator of the witch cult.
T.P.: This book also engages the work and life of horror-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. Ever since the various versions of the Necronomicon hit the book shelves and Kenneth Grant declared Lovecraft to be the unwitting transmitter of an actual occult system and cosmology there is a great controversy about whether this is actually the case or whether this is just total nonsense. What is your opinion on this matter and how do you approach the case of the ‘esoteric’ Lovecraft in your book?
T.V: First of all we must accept that Lovecraft was not an occultist. There is no doubt whatsoever about his disdainful attitude towards occultism and theosophy. Indeed in my experience the tales that seek to consciously weave aspects of real magical practice (for instance, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”) are the least interesting from an esoteric perspective. However in the rich tapestry of his vivid dreams, which inspired many of his tales, there are profound resonances with the visionary experiences of the shaman. It is not a question of extracting a complete occult system from his stories, or drawing exact correspondences between entities of his Mythos and gods and spirits of paganism. This is a red herring. There is no system to be decoded. Instead there are traces, insinuations, echoes of a primal vision, more or less in keeping with the spiritual insights of the LHP, as I described it earlier. With these qualifications in mind, I think it is rather simple-minded to object, as some self-professed traditionalists do, that we should not seek esoteric insight in Lovecraft’s fiction. In fact this objection is quite ironic, since what is tauted here as a purist or traditionalist approach is actually premised on the modern idea of a self-enclosed occult tradition, neatly separated from other areas of culture, literature and the arts. I mean the idea of an occult sub-culture. If we look back to the luminaries of western esotericism we find instead that they were men deeply engaged with the religious and cultural currents of their age. They were not simply outsiders. Take, as one example, the resonances between the esoteric theories of Marsilio Ficino, in the Italian Renaissance, and the paintings of Boticelli (or the later works of Northern humanism, e.g. Durer). Or to take a later example, the fiction of Goethe. Who could reasonably object to the idea that artists, painters and playwrights may be conduits through whom esoteric ideas are communicated? This objection reflects a very impoverished idea of what may count as spirit communication or visionary knowledge—the spirits may just as readily communicate through the pen of a writer of fiction as they may through the works of a self-professed occultist!
You mentioned Kenneth Grant in particular. I have studied the works of Grant with interest and my book makes references to his ideas. The strength and appeal of Grant lies in his visionary approach—indeed, I would argue that his works, much like Lovecraft’s, are fictionalized representations of esoteric realities. Grant was not a scholar and he often plays fast and loose with the facts. This is part of his methodology, which intentionally blurs the boundaries between fiction and truth in order to stimulate the magical imagination. Grant’s often bewildering use of qabalistic methods is one example. Gematria is not a system of facts (it is not an objective science), but a method of accessing archetypal correspondences, which are embedded in the deep structure of consciousness. Now, my own argument also makes strategic use of qabalistic methods, but this visionary approach is balanced by scholarly methodologies, so that the reader is always drawn back to the concrete realities of magical practice. In other words, I think it is vital to the recovery of the primal gnosis that we actually understand the facts relating to the cult of Osiris and to European witchcraft, inasmuch as we can reconstruct these facts through scholarship. This blending of visionary approaches and scholarly method is one of the unique features of my book.
T.P.: You have a lot of experience as an occult practitioner and researcher and came into contact with various initiatory environments over the years. Your work clearly reflects a great affinity with the teachings of David Beth and his pan-daemonic Kosmic Gnosis. David Beth even contributed an introduction to The Faceless God and stated that your work reveals powerful and unique insights into the essence of the biocentric pan-daemonic current. What is unique and different about David Beth’s work and this current when compared to other esoteric environments you have encountered in the past and how is the pan-daemonic Gnosis reflected in The Faceless God?
TV.: I alluded to the Kosmic Gnosis in my earlier remarks about the LHP. My interactions with David Beth have been vital to my own initiatory development—through David’s books and even more through personal communications I have been able to rid myself of certain logocentric biases that barred my access to the shamanistic currents. What I mean by this is that through my extensive study of western esoteric systems, like Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Platonism, and Cabala, I had absorbed a typically transcendentalist picture of reality, what we might call an emanationist scheme, where reality unfolds almost mechanistically from a Paternal God-Head, through a series of emanations, Aeons, Sephiroth, or what have you. The maps may differ from one system to another, but the basic idea is the same. These emanationist schemes are very useful, as maps, and they may reflect aspects of the way in which phenomenal reality is structured from a rational standpoint. This is the standpoint of Spirit, in the terms of Kosmic Gnosis. However, the problem lies in accepting at face value that the phenomena around us are irradiations from some other-worldly source. Whereas this is merely the way that the rational mind makes sense of the world. In reality, the deepest spiritual principles are not other-worldly, but immanent and chthonic—not above, but below and within, if we still require a topological frame of reference. Phenomena are not ghostly emanations, but embodied and enfleshed manifestations of daimonic energies. Phenomena are not irradiated but birthed, and their source is not a transcendent Paternal Monad but a Pleromic Womb—in symbolic terms, the Great Mother. One of the deepest mysteries adumbrated in the book concerns the relation between the Mother and the Son. He is the Faceless God, the anti-logos, the dark seed from which manifestation flowers and into which all manifest forms dissolve. He is the Black Sun gestating in the chthonic Womb. This is the essence of Nyarlathotep, stripped of his fictionalized persona—he is the incarnation of the Pleromic Void, the Son of the Mother, who opens the way into the chthonic depths. The Egyptians knew him as Anubis and every culture has a particular mythological representation—Wotan, Exu, the chthonic Hermes, Tezcatlipoca, etc.
T.P.: Whom is this book intended for and does it contain practical instructions?
T.V.: The book does contain practical instructions and very potent ones at that. I am still somewhat mystified at the way in which the ritual practices took shape. As I relate in the preface to the book, I am convinced that I was guided by some daimonic intelligence. The gnosis communicated in this book is inherently transformative and diligent practice of the rituals will surely lead to contact with the chthonic powers. We speak so glibly about the quest for enlightenment, especially in the contemporary occult scene, where claims of attainment and initiation are fuel for already over-inflated egos. It seems to me that every sincere aspirant should seriously consider whether enlightenment is truly a desirable goal. It should be borne in mind that there is no safe way to align ourselves with these energies, if our sense of safety and happiness are defined in terms of the status quo. This gnosis will cause transformations, which in the short term may be perceived as destructive. In the wake of the writing of the book my own mundane life was radically upset and there were times when I actually regretted the book and even felt that I had been used as an instrument of the daimonic powers in a way that disregarded my own happiness. But in time one comes to see that such changes are necessary if our mundane life is to be organized in a way that facilitates initiation. The old adage that initiation requires suffering, even a kind of death—this should be taken quite seriously. It is not just a literary trope. With this in mind, I would urge my prospective readers to approach this gnosis with caution, to ensure that they are prepared for the kinds of transformation that are required if indeed they seek to be initiated into the LHP. I feel I can confidently assert that any suffering that may result, any upsetting of one’s perceived understanding of the world and one’s way of life, is ultimately to the greater good and to the glory of the Great Mother and her only begotten Son, who is the hidden root of all that is beautiful and holy in this world.
T.P.: Dr. Vincente, thank you for taking time to answer our questions, we are very much looking forward to making your work available to esoteric scholars and practitioners worldwide.
Visit Dr. Tomas Vincente’s website: www.tomasvincente.com