Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path

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The Baphomet, from Eliphas Levi's "Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie", 1854, adopted symbol of some "Left-Hand Path" belief systems.

The Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path are a dichotomy between two opposing belief systems, whose meanings have varied over time. The distinction is generally used by self-proclaimed followers of the "Left-Hand Path." Opponents often argue that these definitions improperly divide belief systems (a mislabeled or false dichotomy), or claim that many Left-Hand beliefs are illegitimate.[citation needed]

Modern definitions of "Right-Hand Path" elevate spirituality, the strict observance of moral codes, and the worship of deities. The intent of "Right-Hand Path" belief systems is to attain proximity to divinity, or integration with divinity. Conversely, the "Left-Hand Path" belief systems value the advancement and preservation of the self, as well as the pursuit of terrestrial goals.[citation needed] These goals are often achieved either by seeking the guidance of one or more deities (or archetypes of deities) via ritualistic practices, or more commonly, via non-theistic uses of instincts and logic.[citation needed]

Although some sects value proximity to the divine, most followers of Left-Hand Path belief systems seek to become divinities in their own right or behold themselves as such already.[citation needed] A simplified outlook would state the RHP teaches divinity through association, while LHP teaches divinity through emulation.


[edit] Origins

The term Left-Hand Path originates from modern descriptions of Hindu Tantra. It was first used in Western occultism to describe religious practices viewed as immoral (such as "sex magic") by Helena Blavatsky (1831 - 1891).[citation needed]

Throughout history, many cultures have regarded left-handedness as evil. This tendency can be seen in the etymology of words such as sinister, which in Latin means both "left" and "unlucky." Consequently, the left hand has often symbolized the rejection of traditional religion, which is most often characterized by the Right-Hand Path. The distinction most likely is that the Right-Hand Path is the path to (or communication with) a different plane of existence, whereas the Left-Hand Path is the path to (or a communication with) this plane of existence. We're considered to be "down here" and divinities are considered to be "up there".

(The terms "left" and "right" as applied to politics have a different origin. They are derived from the seating in the French Legislative Assembly in 1791.)

[edit] Usage in Tantra

Tantra is a set of esoteric Indian traditions with roots in Hinduism and later Buddhism (which is a separate Dharma formed from Hinduism). Tantra is often divided by its practitioners into two different paths: dakshinachara and vamachara, translated as Right-Hand Path and Left-Hand Path respectively.

Dakshinachara consists of traditional Hindu practices such as asceticism and meditation, while vamachara also includes ritual practices that conflict with mainstream Hinduism, such as sexual rituals, consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants, animal sacrifice, and flesh-eating.

The two paths are viewed by Tantrists as equally valid approaches to enlightenment. Vamachara, however, is considered to be the faster and more dangerous of the two paths, and is not suitable for all practitioners. This usage of the terms Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path is still current in modern Tantra.

[edit] Adoption by Western occultism

The prevalence of these terms within the New Age movement, particularly within systems of ceremonial magic and Luciferianism, is usually traced to the influence of Helena Blavatsky, who first used the term Left-Hand Path to describe religious practices with "immoral" content, generally meaning sex magic.

Aleister Crowley further popularized the term "Left-Hand Path" in certain occult circles, referring to a "Brother of the Left-Hand Path," or a "Black Brother," meaning one who failed to attain the grade of Magister Templi in Crowley's system of ceremonial magic. [1]

Crowley also referred to the Left-Hand Path when describing the point at which the Adeptus Exemptus chooses to cross the Abyss, which is the location of Choronzon and the illusory eleventh Sephira, which is Da'ath or Knowledge. In this example, the adept must surrender all, including the guidance of his Holy Guardian Angel, and leap into the Abyss. If his accumulated Karma is sufficient, and if he has been utterly thorough in his own self-destruction, he becomes a "babe of the abyss," arising as a Star in the Crowleyan system.

On the other hand, if he retains some fragment of ego, or if he fears to cross, he then becomes encysted. The layers of his self, which he could have shed in the Abyss, ossify around him. He is then titled a "Brother of the Left-Hand Path," who will eventually be broken up and disintegrated against his will, since he failed to choose voluntary disintegration.

Belief systems which describe themselves as "Left-Hand Path" often invert much of the symbolism of more "traditional" Right-Hand Path belief systems, utilizing upside-down crosses, or inverted pyramids, pentagrams, or pentacles. However, the upside-down cross is also a Catholic symbol (the Cross of St. Peter). Such belief systems will also cite sources such as the following Biblical passage:

And he shall separate them one from another,
as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
And he shall set the sheep on his right,
but the goats on his left.
Matthew 25: 32-33

[edit] Usage in other occult traditions

The terms Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path are primarily used by advocates of the Left-Hand Path, who hold varying opinions of the Right-Hand Path. Some see the two Paths as equally valid approaches to truth, whose relationship is akin to the balance between Yin and Yang, while others criticize the Right-Hand Path as being too restrictive.

According to the latter view, the Right-Hand Path's imposition of formal dogmas and codes of behavior impede individual decision-making, making it possible for one to avoid responsibility for one's own life, with a consequent loss of individuality.

Some argue that this is the main difference between the two Paths: the Left-Hand Path preserves individuality, while the Right-Hand Path destroys it.

Conversely, some accuse advocates of the Left-Hand Path of narcissism, while praising the Right-Hand Path for its altruism.

Yet others believe that the right hand path spends too much time fighting imaginary enemies from the left hand path. [1]

Right-Hand Path belief systems generally share the following properties:

  • Belief in a higher power, such as a deity.
  • Obedience to the will of a higher power.
  • The belief that there is an absolute definition of good and evil that applies to everyone.
  • Esoteric belief in a supernatural mechanism like Karma, divine retribution, or the Threefold Law, which entails the assessment of moral decisions made in one's lifetime.
  • Eschatological beliefs, resulting to salvation for some and to damnation for others.

Left-Hand Path belief systems generally share the following properties:

  • The conviction that individuals can become (or already are) akin to gods.
  • The conviction that there is no such thing as a selfless act. Fulfilling one's desire is acknowledged to be selfish, at the least reaping an individual sense of satisfaction. Altruism is considered self-deception, created and fostered by conventional religions.
  • A less rigid definition of the self; a purported realization that there are sometimes collective identities which can also, just as validly, have the label "self" applied to them.
  • An exoteric interpretation of concepts like karma, divine retribution, or the Threefold Law, resulting in flexible rather than rigid codes of ethics.
  • The conviction that the individual is preeminent, and that all decisions should be made with the goal of cultivating the self (though not necessarily the ego).
  • The conviction that each individual is responsible for his or her own happiness, and that no external force will provide salvation or reward actions which do not advance one's own happiness in this life.
  • The conviction that the forces of the universe can be harnessed to one's personal will by magical means, and that power gained and wielded in such a manner is an aid to enlightenment, to self-satisfaction, and to self-deification.
  • A Platonic view of deities as "first-forms." If deity is perceived as having consciousness, then all relationships with the deity are in the form of a partnership, or an alliance which does not require subservience. Some practitioners of Left-Hand Path belief systems summarize this concept with the statement that "prideful deities like prideful partners."

Most conventional religions are considered examples of the Right-Hand Path, including Confucianism. Some varieties of Vajrayana Buddhism and "Alchemical" Taoism (as opposed to "Philosophical Taoism") are also considered examples of the Left-Hand Path, with enlightenment attainable through living a virtuous life and doing good deeds. Some maintain that Mahayana and Vajrayana are pure Right-Hand Path belief systems.

Such definitions and classifications are controversial. Some consider the sundering of belief systems needlessly dualistic, and often inapplicable to religious traditions like Advaita Vedanta, Taoism and Buddhism.

[edit] List of belief systems that describe themselves as left-handed

[edit] References

  1. ^ http://www.philhine.org.uk/writings/ess_bmlhp.html
  • Crowley, Aleister (1991). Magick Without Tears. New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-018-1. 
  • Flowers, Stephen (1997). Lords of the Left Hand Path: A History of Spiritual Dissent. Runa Raven Press. ISBN 1-885972-08-3. 
  • Sutcliffe, Richard J. (1996). '"Left-Hand Path Ritual Magick: An Historical and Philosophical Overview," in G. Harvey & C. Hardman (eds.), Paganism Today, pp.109-37'. London: Thorsons/HarperCollins. ISBN 0-7225-3233-4. 
  • Svoboda, Robert E. (1986). AGHORA, At the Left Hand of God. Brotherhood of Life. ISBN 0-914732-21-8. 
  • Webb, Don; Stephen E. Flowers (1999). Uncle Setnakt's Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path. Runa Raven Pr. ISBN 1885972105. 

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