A COMPREHENSIVE VIEW REGARDING THE RIGHT-HAND AND LEFT-HAND PATHS

“Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason, each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.” ~ The Gospel of Philip

good-vs-evil

This is an expanded version of an article I had written and posted on social media in 2014. Due to quite a bit of on-going debate, I am compelled to contribute more based on observance, research, and experience working with different types of magick and esoteric philosophies.

Particularly within the context of where the terms Left Hand Path and Right Hand Path come from in Ceremonial Magick, I feel that this contribution will help clear up quite a bit of myth as well as hopefully dispel even some downright aggressiveness as those of both “sides” rigorously defend their beliefs. Both the Left Hand Path and Right Hand Path are valid. Neither one should be looked at in terms of “Good” or “Evil”. They are just different. And most of all, they are labels for spiritual path working. We may want to ask ourselves first if we want to subscribe to labeling of our beliefs and practices. Furthermore, does it make sense to do so unless we are working with a specific model to apply to what we are doing?

The discussion regarding what is the “Right-hand and Left-hand Paths” have even made it to my own dinner table. I see much of the debate between these so called “Paths” as utter rubbish, within the context of “Good or Evil “, “Light or Dark” since in this case, the labels imply dualism. Western terminology came directly from Ceremonial Magick in reference to certain mapping on the Qabbalistic Tree of Life. The Tree itself does not reference a dualistic philosophy at all for those working the paths and the Sephiroth in the proper ascending order across the Three Pillars. One starts on the Middle Pillar, then in a serpentine manner, goes left to right, back to the middle, left to right, back to the middle etc. until reaching the goal of Kether, which is the Sephiroth posited on the Middle Pillar.

Labels, period, are inventions of we humans in an effort to classify that which otherwise may not be understood, but not Divine mandates. We may use philosophies or visual models to delineate what is “Right Hand Path” and what is the “Left Hand Path”. There are multiple variations of meaning and they are all correct…or incorrect. It just depends on what tradition and model one aligns with as to which definition fits. Sometimes one can borrow from more than one, depending on outlook, yet one or two end goals of the practitioner should always be taken into consideration.

Some individuals claim to practice both Right and Left Hand Paths, thereby a “Middle Road”. I do not see this as possible when one works with just ONE set of philosophies, yet I DO see it possible when one works with multiple structures and philosophies…. but only to a certain point. A choice does need to be made. This is purely subjective on my behalf in the realm of Ceremonial Magician and alludes to the postulations of Aleister Crowley. However, five different sets or “interpretations” will be presented here at the end of this commentary so you, the readers, can decide for yourself where your interests lie in terms of the Right Hand or Left Hand Paths.

Either you are seeking to become deified by becoming a SEPARATE, individual “God/Goddess” via the “True Self”, or else seeking to become deified via becoming ONE with existing Divinity through your “Higher Self”. The Higher Self IS already deified, just as the True Self is ! So, in the end, in Western Ceremonial Magick, both Paths are actually ones of self-deification, just in different ways of expression! This is something a Magician ultimately should understand no matter what their basic orientation. As Magicians we are becoming unified with that part of us that is Divine, thus becoming Divine ourselves. “God (or Goddess) is found within.” We are all in a state of “becoming”. The difference between the Adept of the Right Hand Path versus the Left is that the Right Hand Path Adept seeks to unite with existing Divine Principle whereas the Left Hand Path Adept seeks to separate from that Principle in order to become as an entirely Solitary Principle.

Let it be also understood that in the Right Hand Path, the Adept becomes Divine (awakens one’s own Divine potential) by first merging with his/her Holy Guardian Angel/ Daemon. The Divine in Hermeticism is expressed as the Highest Divine Self. So, here we already have a sort of Godhood already picked out for the Right Hand Path Adept. The Left Hand Path Adept just creates a new form of Godhood. Hermeticism in general for instance, is considered in line with Right Hand Path philosophies.

In Ceremonial Magick, both Paths essentially lead to a type of Godhood, just in different ways, by different philosophies and practices. 

Do you understand this ? Does that shock you? Given the amount of static on the internet these day perhaps it should. Or perhaps not…

Too many mental fences restrict True Gnosis. Put yourself into a box and see just how far that gets you. Ah, but we love our boxes, so I have provided five of them for us to play with in regards to the definitions of Right Hand and Left Hand Path.

Sources are provided at the end of this document regarding the process if “Individuation” as well as Indian Tantrik information as I am not directly acquainted with Eastern Right and Left Hand Path philosophies on my own, being only initiated into and working Western Ceremonial Magick Traditions and Craft. I certainly do not claim to know all.

There are those that ascribe to parts of BOTH Right and Left Hand Path and resent being put into a category to describe their praxis. I tend to be one such person. Why? Because of lack of dualistic belief and walking both the paths of the Magician and the Witch. I consider myself to actually be a “Right-Hand Path Magician, yet a Left-Hand Path Witch (in very loose terms). As a Witch, my praxis is more Sabbatic Craft/ Traditional Witchcraft and Druidry mixed with Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) Heka, and that folk magick based on areas in the world of my ancestors. However, as a Magician, I am a long-standing initiate working with the Tree of Life in a structured manner as well as have my own philosophical leanings. If I am to “pick” one label or another however, then I choose that which have been working as a formal initiate with living traditions, such as Thelema and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is considered to be “Right Hand Path” due to the Tree of Life model “Path of the Serpent” up through to Kether and usually so is Thelema.

Although I am sure many would argue that point due to both L.V.X. and N.O.X. formulas are part of the Work. I have Brethren in the Ordo Templi Orientis for instance, that are Satanists in conjunction with being Thelemic and via this, are claim to the Left Hand Path. With this being the case however, and so many variances between individuals engaged in the Great Work together that are Right Hand and Left Hand Path, Thelema would be the most MIDDLE oriented and not right nor left. And what do we think about a Middle Path?  Most don’t believe one exists as that terminology has not been used to delineate a specific Path. I see that Thelema has a defined Middle Way, yet in working with the Tree of Life model, the choice of where to proceed with the Greater Abyss is presented.

Aleister Crowley makes the following commentary in his book “Magick Without Tears”, chapter 12 – The Left Hand Path The “Black Brothers” in a letter to a student regarding the nature of the Right and Left Hand Path. He basically describes how the Paths are undifferentiated until the ordeal of crossing of the Abyss after the attainment of the 7=4 grade of Exemptus Adeptus. It is then that the very ordeal as a Babe of the Abyss means defeat and devastation for the “Black Brother” of the Left Hand Path (whereas it is liberating to the “White Brother”).  To quote: “It is exactly that which he most dread; and it is that to which in the end come, because there is no compensating element in his structure.”

What Crowley means by that is that the Left Hand Path Black Adept restricts themselves by being satisfied with the limited ideal, which is losing his or her individuality. He goes on to mention that perhaps this occurs as a result of the Black Adept actually evoking his “Evil Genius” instead of his/her “ Holy Guardian Angel” in the  degree of the 5=6 Adeptus Minor, posited in the sphere of Tiphareth. He references the passage in the 14th Aethyr in Magick Without Tears in the same chapter:

“See where thine angel hath led Thee, and so on. Perhaps the Black Brother deserts his Angel when he realizes the programme.”

Of course, this is one theory based on the Tree of Life structure, yet it is one from perhaps the most prolific occultist in the modern world. It should be taken into consideration that Aleister Crowley, no matter what his lifestyle nor temperament, has undeniably contributed a considerable amount of workable material and philosophical teachings to the Western Ceremonial Magick community in the modern world. Even he considered a type of “Middle Path”, at least for a while until the ordeal of the Crossing of the Greater Abyss.

Given WE create our own labels; would it not be possible to have a Middle Path then? I think so, at least to a certain point it DOES exist since a Magician needs to adhere to a Middle Way to complete mastery of the self. There is a departing point however whereby one cannot walk both as even Crowley alludes to. A critical decision must be made. And even at a departing point of which I identify as the Greater Abyss on the Tree of Life separating the Qabbalistic World of Atziluth and Briah, there is the questioning of the “beyond” as to one where one ends up. We literally will not know until we actually get there, if we even do in our current incarnations. Many Magicians who embark on the Tree of Life do not even make it past the Lesser Abyss onto the Sephiroth of Tiphareth and even less to the Greater Abyss and beyond in a living, breathing human form!

Personally, I grabbed my parachute and jumping off the “dualism paradigm heap” a while ago to embrace the gift that is Divinity in all its forms was a very liberating experience! Yes, it is indeed that big of a deal apparently in the occult community at large. But should it be? Why the labels? There are times that labels seem very restrictive and too much contraction leads to nothing, if not some imploded theory. There just should not be too many fences put around esoteric Paths, in my opinion anyways. There are enough bounds and terminations. For instance, Orders tend to be quite structured enough in practices and governance already without having blanket terms thrown on top of them!

However, some compartmentalization is needed. Not having any mental filters to discern Gnosis from delusions, is unnecessary Chaos and leads to nowhere but Insanity. And as Magicians and Witches, we tend to walk that line at various points in our spiritual careers simply due to the mental challenges and nature of the Great Work.

Chaos is necessary for Creation, the unlimited Source of Power and Energy, but there is a difference between drawing deeply into Well of Chaos to fuel Creation, then allowing it to run amok in Malkuth. Chaos does not differentiate between opposing paradigms. which is why Order is necessary. We wield Chaos and Order in due accord to our own mandates in an act of Balance.

Power and Energy also do not differentiate between any opposing paradigms. They are neutral. We shape them to our specifications as Magicians, rather than each of them having distinct characteristics.

Take the Kabbalistic Tree of Life for example. It is perfect. There is good reason it has existed for so long and is the foundation for many magical systems. It is used in Western Ceremonial Magick to define the “Right” and “Left” Hand Paths in regards to working the Tree of Life. This applies to both so-called “Right Hand Path” Orders and “Left Hand Path” ones.  It is in perfected equilibrium in its representation and that it why it makes for such a profound and workable template for path working. Within the structure of the Tree, are 3 pillars: the left, the right and the middle, with corresponding Sephiroth. What if we apply the LHP and RHP to the Tree itself as Magicians of both persuasions work with it?

One cannot ignore the left side of Severity, nor the right side of Mercy. Instead, as Magicians, we work the Path of the Serpent starting from the bottom and work upwards through the Sephiroth and the 4 Kabbalsitc Worlds, or the “Path of the Flaming Sword” starting at Kether and then work downwards- but nothing is “missed ” in that formation. Both the Left hand and Right Hand are equally important. We don’t cut off one hand to spare the other. I think I have made the point clear here. Many from either the RHP and LHP would argue this. The choice between the two does not have to occur as an absolute from the very beginning when taking the origin of Right and Left Hand Path terms into consideration.

Even so, there is just nothing to objectively support the distinction of LHP and RHP except method ( practice). There are also individually defined beliefs and I respect others interpretations. Some may argue that the goal is what defines a RHP magician of a LHP. Really? Just how much difference is there really between being self-deified by efforts to become one with one’s own Higher Self and becoming a self-deified God/Goddess?

If the Eternal Source is the same, reaching beyond Kether into Infinite Space, then are we not ALL seeking the same? It’s not as if there is some magical stoplight at Da’ath where LHP’s fall through a hole, Work the Adverse Tree of Knowledge and come out a Deity, Viola! Instant Godhood! Or for the RHP magicians, sailing on the wings of the HGA up to Kether with NO stoplight, and consequentially no Godhood and they just dissolve into some ambiguous collective? Or is it really that simple? Seems to me working inside both the deepest core of the Tree and upon its lofty slim branches, are equally as important!  And, working both with one’s Shadow and with one’s Light is equally important…… or perhaps wholeness shall forever elude the Magus or Maga that thinks otherwise..

FIVE MODELS DELINEATING RIGHT-HAND AND LEFT-HAND PATHS

*Please note where the differences and similarities intersect and commentary at the end of the presentation of these models.

  1. Western Ceremonial Magick Tradition Understanding of the Right-Hand and Left-Hand Paths.

These are such based upon the Qabbalisitc Tree of Life ( and Adverse Tree) models used by such Ceremonial Magick Orders and Temples as follow:  The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn ( and all “ Golden Dawn” based Orders that have the same types of teachings) , All Thelemic Orders & Temples such as the Ordo Templi Orientis, Temple of Thelema, Temple of the Silver Star, the Astrum Argentum A:.A:., Fraternis Saturni, and The Dragon Rouge.

right-and-left-hand-path-tree-of-life

Right Hand Path Practitioner:

  • Follows the Path of the Serpent on the Tree of Life all the way to the Sephiroth of Kether as the last Sephiroth preceding Kether, Chokmah, is on the Right side of the Tree of Life, the side of Mercy. The Ego is sacrificed and even destroyed in the crossing of the Greater Abyss. What remains is the pure, Higher Self of the Adept, as an offering unto the “Cup of Binah”, the Great Mother. This is the “dust” from the desert of the Abyss. Recall the Hebrew letter of Gimel and the Tarot Card of the High Priestess. Gimel means “camel”. Camels retain water in order to survive the desert…
  • The Adversarial Tree can also be worked with, yet it is considered very dangerous and is not homogenous to all traditions that consider themselves “Right Hand Path”.
  • Tends to work with hierarchal praxis.
  • Working primarily Divine Theurgy tends to be a main focus. Demonaltry/ Demonology has a definite part to play also, but not a primary one. Goetic Work is also done. Work with demonic forces is for the purpose of getting to know one’s own Shadow Self, one’s own Qlippoth, and integrate it into one’s Higher Self, rather than further ensconce one into the Shadow personality.
  • Is in the process of “individuation”, a term referenced by the famous psychologist Carl J. Jung which means discovering one’s “True Self” or “Higher Self”.
  • Let’s go of the personal Ego upon the crossing of the Greater Abyss and becomes part of the “Great White Brotherhood/ Sisterhood”.
  • Goal of the Great Work is to merge with one’s Holy Gaurdian Angel/ Daemon and become one’s Highest Divine Self which resides in the Sephirotic sphere of Kether.

Left Hand Path Practitioner:

  • Follows the Path of the Serpent on the Tree of Life to the Greater Abyss and stops there as in order to effectively Cross the Abyss, the Ego must be sacrificed into the cup of Binah, and a Left Hand Path practitioner does not sacrifice his or her Ego. The Left Hand Path Adept builds the Ego up to attain separate Godhood. They do not allow the Ego to be destroyed or subjugated, and therefore do not Cross the Abyss to become as Aliester Crowley defines as a “Black Brother” or “Black Sister”. But just because one becomes such does not mean they cannot go further into the Path of the Ego. They go further INTO the ABYSS and can work “Adverse Tree of Life of the Qlippoth” through the invisible sphere of Da’ath, the “Second Sun” which resides at the heart of the Abyss. which according to some occultists is ruled by Lucifer. This is the Path of the Adversary. It is also called the “False Crown” . The risk here is that one pursuing this may end up just being consumed by one’s own Qlippoth, rather than mastering them, and thereby be ultimately destroyed. The Black Adept invokes his “Evil Genius” rather than “Higher Self” as referenced by Aleister Crowley.
  • Alternately “some” believe that those on the Left Hand Path actually “stop” at Gevurah at, as it is the last Sephiroth on the Side of Severity, the Black Pillar which also corresponds to Power. They cannot advance to Chesed as that represents Love and Mercy and those on the Path that only want Power can go no further.
  • An emphasis on the Adverse Tree from the point of Da’ath. It tends to be homogenous to Ceremonial Orders and Groups that call themselves “Left Hand Path”.
  • Tends to work hierarchal praxis.
  • Working with Demonolatry/Demonology tends to be a main focus such as the Ars Goetia. They can also work with Theurgy, but only do so to a certain point.
  • Is in the process of “individuation”, a term referenced by the famous psychologist Carl J. Jung which means discovering one’s “True Self” or “Higher Self”.
  • Does NOT let go of the personal Ego upon crossing of the Greater Abyss and thus does not succeed in crossing it. He or she becomes a “Black Brother” or “Black Sister”.
  • Goal is to merge and become one’s True Self but NOT dissolve into Oneness of the Divine Self and instead become a Creator/Creatrix of one’s own Universe as a separate entity. 

  Qabbalistic ” Tree of Death” According to Israel Regardie

the-tree-of-death-according-to-israel-regardie

  1. Here is one Eastern Tradition understanding which focuses on Practices & Social Constructs:

Right Hand Path Practitioner:

            INDIAN TANTRA

  • Follows the way of Dakshinachara.
  • Follows Orthodox Vedic practices of social conduct, diet, sexuality and worship of Deity(ies)
  • In Dakshinachara, one worships the Sri Chakra. It is a bahya puja. This means the worship of something outside one’s self, such as a vigraham (idol or yantra)
  • Has socially acceptable practices, yet may take many lifetimes to complete.

Left Hand Path Practitioner:

            INDIAN TANTRA

  • Follows the way of Vāmācārawhich literally means in Sanskrit “To reverse the Natural flow”
  • Follows unorthodox and even heterodox practices according to Vedic tradition. Such as “Having sexual relations with “unclean” women (on their menstrual periods) and outcasts.
  • Engages in such practices held taboo as: certain ritual sex practices, eating of raw meat, sometimes even human, and living/sleeping on cremation grounds- (such as the Aghoris).
  • The goal of a Vāmācārais to become as Shiva. Thus deified. It is thought that through engaging in these above extremes that Left Hand Path practitioners can find Godhood after the model of Shiva.
  • Is considered “dangerous” yet a quicker method to attain Samadhi than Dakshinachara.

 aghori-monk

 3. Here is our purely Philosophical understanding to differentiate Right-Hand from Left-Hand Paths. This is the one you will find offered up the most.

Usually this definition is favored by those that tend towards an extreme, absolutist viewpoint and/or are just not accustomed to world of the occult in order to use a mapping system of progress. It does makes sense in some ways, yet tends to ignore all the subtleties present in the Great Work and Path the Magician takes. However, one can abide by either of these philosophical rules and make it work, however some snags in the process are a potential stepping stone to doubt and confusion in the Magician or Witch’s mind that would need to be reconciled before proceeding further as there is no “model” to work with. The area which may be of most contention is the last point regarding reliance on a divinity to control outcomes or being self-reliant. Magicians of BOTH the Right and Left Hand Paths according to the Tree of Life model for instance, are self-reliant and do not have to be religious or mystical.

Right Hand Path Practitioner:

  • Worships deity(ies) and is/are subservient to them. Serves as an emissary to divine mission rather than a self-serving one.
  • Believes in the annihilation of the personal Ego.
  • Is in the process of dissolving in order to become one with Divine Source, God. Etc.
  • Is more of a Mystic or a Religious person. For example: “God/Goddess” is in control of my life’s outcome/destiny, not me”,” I pray and hope my prayers are answered”, “I am not responsible for my outcomes, there are Higher Forces controlling those”

Left Hand Path Practitioner:

  • Worships nothing and no-one. Treats deity(ies) more or less as spirits to “work with” or companions on their journey, rather than being their servants or emissaries.
  • Believes in the building up of the personal Ego.
  • Is in the process of separating from the Divine Source, God etc as they are seeking Godhood themselves.
  • Is more of a Magician or Witch due to the efforts of being able to control one’s own destiny. “I create my own world”, “I control elemental forces to my advantage”,” I am responsible for outcomes in my life, not anyone nor anything else”

Please note: There are some that subscribe to the philosophy that consider Jung’s Process of Individuation to be part and parcel of strictly the Left Hand Path. However, the above explanation in terms of Western Ceremonial Magick and Mysticism should be consulted as BOTH the Right and Left Hand paths utilize the Jungian process of Individuation.

 

  1. This final model based purely on Tradition or Religion. I find this to be however the most superficial of all the models and in my opinion, the least accurate. It basically shoves anything, including High Ceremonial magick most of all, into a category defined by society as orthodox or heterodox, good or bad. This is an extremely limited viewpoint and one taken most by those that are on the outside looking in on the world the occult through the lens of mainstream society expectations.

Right Hand Path Practitioner:

  • All Abrahamic RELIGIONS such as Christianity, Judaism, as well as Muslim. Also many Pagan religions, Most sects of Hinduism, Kemeticism (Ancient Egyptian revival/ reconstructionist), Asatru ( Norse), Shinto ( Japanese), Buddhist, Celtic revival/ reconstructionist. This including “new” religions such as Wicca. Also Theosophy and Mysticism.

Left Hand Path Practitioner:

  • ALL MAGICKAL Path Orders and Traditions including: All Thelemic Orders & Temples, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Frateris Saturni, Order of the Nine Angles, Dragon Rouge, Temple of Set, All Witchcraft Traditions such as British Traditional Witchcraft, Balkan Traditional Witchcraft, Stregheria (Italian Witchcraft) ect. (with the exception of Wicca due to the Wiccan Rede, Threefold Law and subservience to the God and Goddess.)

*Please note that Thelema is also a RELIGION and therefore could be placed as Right Hand Path, yet that tends to defy more precise modeling as discussed earlier in this article. Due to this, some have been known to just put Thelema as a new category altogether as a MIDDLE PATH.

ALL of these examples are perfectly valid in their own way, however not everyone needs to subscribe to these exact definitions.

Copyright © 2016 Leigh-Ann Rose Grace. All rights reserved.

Artwork- unknown sources

BOOK SOURCES  :

“Magick Without Tears”~ Aleister Crowley

“Qabalah, Qlippoth and Goetic Magick” ~ Thomas Karlsson

ON-LINE SOURCES:

http://www.soul-guidance.com/houseofthesun/individuationprocess.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dak%E1%B9%A3i%E1%B9%87%C4%81c%C4%81ra

http://shaktisadhana.50megs.com/Newhomepage/Resource/essays/4traditionsofsrividya.html

http://kaulanath.blogspot.com/2009/01/reflections-on-right-hand-and-left-hand.htmlb

http://www.detoxorcist.com/left-hand-path-and-right-hand-path.html

 tree-of-life

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