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The Left-Hand and Right-Hand Path - Overview

Issues of Definition

Last Updated: 21 Nov 2015  


To understand the occultism in general, and specifically Satanism, Bestian Gnosticism, Gnostic Luciferianism, it is necessary to examine the concept of the left-hand and right-hand paths. I have attempted to understand all of the above areas, but may only have a crude grasp of them, despite my best efforts. It should be noted that the different systems of belief and practice within the stereotypical Left-Hand and Right-Hand Paths are often not readily categorised into one or other part of the dichotomy, and indeed, some utilise concepts from both 'left' and 'right' handed paths. Nevertheless, the definitions do hold some value in understanding paganism, Satanism, Luciferianism and occultism in general. The predominant usage of the terminology can be found amongst those who define themselves as being adherents of the 'left-hand path'. Eliphas Levi's Baphomet (seen below) is often used to represent the Left-Hand Path.


'The terms Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path refer to a dichotomy between two opposing belief systems, whose meanings have varied over time. 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, "Left-Hand Path" belief systems value the advancement and preservation of the self, glorification of more temporal and terrestrial goals, and personal power rather than spiritual attainments. Rather than valuing proximity to the divine, followers of Left-Hand Path belief systems seek to "become divinities" in their own right. These definitions are typically used by proponents of Left-Hand Path belief systems. Opponents often argue that these definitions improperly divide belief systems (a mislabeled or false dichotomy), or claim that many Left-Hand beliefs are illegitimate.' 

Issues of Definition

Is there really such a thing as a purely, 100% Left-Hand Path and a pure Right-Hand Path? This is probably impossible to keep up all the time. Are some people emotionally stunted because they are slaves to a prescribed exclusively Left-Hand or Right-Hand Path? Or is this a sign of enlightenment? Most people lie in the middle somewhere, some closer to one extreme than the other. Is a harmony between the two actual balance? Or merely a confused state? Surely one should follow one's own Path, one's own Will, whatever this is - first one has to figure out what it is of course through self-knowledge.

Some may argue that the modern usage of the term Left-Hand Path has little in common with Vamachara in the Tantric tradition, just as the modern view of the Right-Hand Path (e.g. Christianity) has little in common with Dakshinachara. Whilst the concept of the two paths (LH and RH) was clearly inspired Indian Tantra, whether it was ever literally meant to describe them is another matter. It is clear that the concept of Left-Hand Path has evolved somewhat since then, taking a big leap from Blavatsky to Crowley, and against from Crowley to modern Satanism and related traditions/groups. The concept of the two paths were originally representing related but different traditions within the same 'religion', whereas the modern usage is dualistic, dichotomistic and setting the paths in opposition to / against each other. The Tantric Vamachara was never 'in opposition' to anything. Indeed, the spirit and discipline of Vamachara is distinctly at odds with the modern, self-deification and self-serving nature of the LHP. Regardless, we are here mainly concerned with the modern application and usage of these terms. Some may see a 'wiser' route in the occult to represent elements of both of the Tantric definitions, rather than a binary choice between modern definitions and a more 'conformist' approach. How useful are the modern applications of the terms and do they do more to lock people into fixed, dualistic and arbitrary modes of thinking that provide genuine wisdom and a realistic description of religion?

Ironically, many Left-Handed groups draw on many concepts from Buddhism, Taoism, Tantra and Hinduism as part of their practices, in particular meditation. Whilst these religions and philosophies are often labelled as Right-Handed, they are highly heterogenous in conceptual terms and contain elements that can be used by both Left-Handed and Right-Handed philosophies and magical traditions. Some branches of these philosophies are considered Right-Hand Paths, e.g. Philosophical Taoism, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism etc., whereas other branches of the same religions are considered Left-Hand Paths, e.g. Alchemical Taoism, Vamachara etc. Does this mean that one can generalise about these religions and philosophies and state they are all Right-Hand Paths? Clearly not. Classification is not without its problems, and the convenient concept of (Monotheism/Satanism) dichotomy is highly flawed.

LHP/RHP is perhaps a metaphor for chaos vs control; self-control vs outside control; hedonism and self-gratification vs acetism and restraint; being a slave to ones desires vs rising above one's desires; self-self-interest vs sacrifice and serving others; abundance vs sacrifice; abundance through self-actualisation vs abundance through faith and non-attachment. The definition of LHP and RHP leads to an inevitable perception of a philosophical war and duality of philosophy, an appreciation of what lies in the middle. Even those 'higher' LHP philosophies that believe they embrace some elements of abstinence or Eastern Religions, still house themselves very firmly in the LHP camp, rather than rising above the definitions of either LHP or RHP.

Does the 'dark' versus 'light' or 'light' versus 'dark' paradigm perpetuate the 'dark' forces in our society and consciousness? Or is it a result of lower forms of self-actualisation of those lacking in self-belief, confidence, self-honesty or self-knowledge? A representation of the crudest expressions of lower consciousness in those that are unable to self-actualise and get in touch with their higher levels of consciousness? If the followers of the RHP were more prepared to acknowledge their fears and lower levels of consciousness, would they know more inner peace rather than internal conflict of different levels of consciousness?

Most LHP practitioners do not also acknowledge that the 'RHP' is an equally valid method or discipline, like their Tantric brothers once did. In the vast majority of cases, they regard it as an inferior or backwards method of psychological evolution. Clearly what we call the RHP today, including Western religious dogma, has very little in common with the Tantric version. LHP practitioners have clearly introduced additional philosophical concepts, from Nietzsche, Darwin, (late) Crowley and LaVey; but as stated above, many of the early Tantric concepts have become very diluted or taken out of context and much of the mental discipline has disappeared, or the method has disappeared, replaced by a 'made up' discipline or method, depending on the mood of the practitioner - rarely a systematic and tried and tested approach. It also makes the practitioner susceptible to delusions and paranoia, whether spiritual/astral paranoia and delusions, or conspiracy theory type delusions, on account of a lack of mental discipline and perspective.

[Continue to Part 2]

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