Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path

Left-Hand Path and Right-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, the "Left-Hand Path" belief systems value the advancement and preservation of the self, as well as the pursuit of temporal and terrestrial goals. These goals are achieved either by seeking the guidance of one or more deities via theistic practices, or more commonly, via non-theistic uses of instincts and logic.

Although some sects value proximity to the divine, most 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.


The term "Left-Hand Path" originates from 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).

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.

It is possible that this division also derives from the practice of using the left hand for purposes of personal hygiene after defecation in some cultures, rendering the left hand "unclean."

(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.)

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.

Adoption by Western occultism

The prevalence of these terms within the New Age movement, particularly within systems of ceremonial magic and Satanism, 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. [http://www.hermetic.com/crowley/mwt/mwt_12.html]

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 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

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.

"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.
*The ultimate goal of merging the individual consciousness into a greater or cosmic whole.

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

*The conviction that individuals can become akin to gods, usually through spiritual insight.
*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.
*An exoteric interpretation of concepts like karma, divine retribution, or the Threefold Law, resulting in flexible rather than rigid codes of morality.
*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.

List of Belief Systems that Describe Themselves as Left Handed

**LaVeyan Satanism
**Church of Satan
**First Satanic Church
**Theistic Satanism
*Dragon Rouge
*Setianism "also spelled Sethianism"
**Temple of Set
*Left-Hand Path Hinduism


Scholars of religion and other systems of belief often do not accept the Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path dichotomy. Critics argue that the division is derived from a limited subset of the world's belief systems, that the terms are too loosely defined to be useful in formal studies, and that the terms are too charged with pejorative connotations to be useful in discourse between holders of differing systems of belief.Fact|date=January 2008



External links

* A discussion of the origins of the terms: [http://dpjs.co.uk/lefthandpath.html Left Hand Path]
* Aleister Crowley on the "Left-Hand Path": [http://hermetic.com/crowley/mwt/mwt_12.html Magick Without Tears Chapter XII]

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