Antinomianism, a tool to achieve liberation
“One only achieves “overstanding” rather than mere understanding of any so called truth or law or convention by appreciating the conditions under which it is false or inappropriate or unnecessary.” Peter J Carrol
It’s nearly noon and the Aghori sits in the smashan, the cremation ground, meditating, holding a scull in his left hand. He keeps the marijuana pipe next to him on the ground, close enough so that he only has to reach and grab when he needs to smoke. Also close to him is the empty rum bottle he used the previous night to prepare for shavasadhana. Alcohol gives him the courage to face the corpse when it awakens, but now it’s only the afterthought that lingers in his mind: the fierce eyes and the smell. He rolls the beads of his mala between his thumb and index finger, and chants “Om hreemsphurasphuraprasphuraprasphura…”
In the past, antinomianism was a term mostly used to describe aspects of left-hand path spirituality, but these days the lines between what is termed LHP and RHP seems blurred.
The word antinomian is of Greek origin and means lawlessness, but in the context of spirituality it does not mean breaking laws that will get you into trouble or anything like that, but rather, going against the grain. P.T. Mistlberger says in an article called Tantric Antinomianism and The Left Hand Path “It refers to a particular teaching that is not concerned with conventional ethics and is largely amoral (as opposed to moral or immoral).” By following an antinomian spiritual approach you aim to awake spiritually by using non-traditional methods and means. So if someone from a specific religion looks outside that religion for the answers to spiritual questions and engages in acts that are not approved by their religion, it can be seen as an antinomian act.
I recall a situation with a lady that came to my shop to buy a spell candle to sort out a problem in her life. Her daughter brought her to the shop, believing that we were the solution to her mother’s problems. The lady, in her late fifties, walked around in the shop, visibly shy, eyeing everything around her with obvious disbelief. Her daughter explained the situation to me and I inscribed a candle for her. When I handed the lady the candle she only briefly looked me in the eye and then looked down. They thanked me and left immediately.
I didn’t think about them again until the daughter came back to talk to me about her mother’s first candle magic experience. She was shaking her head and laughing a bit as she explained to me what happened. Coming from an Afrikaans Dutch Reformed Church background, the mother had a fear; any form of magic is a sin in the eyes of the lord. So she postponed the act. When she eventually got to doing the spell her hands shook so heavily that she tried a few times unsuccessfully to light the candle. After she managed to light the candle she struggled to breath for a while because of fear. The daughter acted the whole scene out while she was telling it to me, we had a good laugh.
What a liberating experience it must have been for the mother to face that fear? Antinomianism is a process that can lead to liberation. Liberation is seen by many as an important ingredient in the elusive elixir of life and enlightenment. Peter J Carrol says in his book Liber Null “It is a mistake to consider any belief more liberated than another. It is the possibility of change which is important. Every new form of liberation is destined to eventually become another form of enslavement for most of its adherents.” Maybe we can never be truly free from being captured by a paradigm or of attaching to beliefs and expectations, but we can try to broaden our horizons.
Paganism covers a broad spectrum of belief systems, ranging from well-known systems like Wicca and Asatru that seem to be more RHP to ‘dark forms’ of Paganism that have a lot of LHP elements incorporated. We Pagans are lucky; we have access to knowledge and techniques that people in the past worked lifetimes to achieve. We sit with opportunities to learn, all we have to do is look outside the norm, experience the things that would bring us closer to greater understanding.
Aleister Crowley was known for making statements that rubbed people up the wrong way, probably to attract attention and gain notoriety. I found the following Crowley quote in the above-mentioned article by P.T. Mistlberger. Remember to read it with a pinch of salt.
“After five years of folly and weakness, miscalled politeness, tact, discretion, care for the feeling of others, I am weary of it. I say today: to hell with Christianity, Rationalism, Buddhism, all the lumber of the centuries. I bring you a positive and primeval fact, Magic by name; and with this I will build me a new Heaven and new Earth. I want none of your faint approval or faint dispraise; I want blasphemy, murder, rape, revolution, anything, bad or good, but strong.”