Sunday, October 04, 2009

On the Paths

Jason recently posted about the Left and Right Hand Paths of mysticism and magic. From the comments, I can tell there's a lot of different understandings of what the LHP and RHP are all about. Jason's post explains that he's addressing the role of passions of the mind in your practice. Those of the LHP, sez he, attempt to use the passions in moderation, following Paracelsus' famous axiom that it is the dose that determines the poison. Those of the RHP, he says, attempt to avoid the passions altogether.

Fr. Resurgere sees Thelema as LHP, and Christianity as RHP. Apuleius sees LHP as anything not socially acceptable, and RHP as anything socially acceptable. K. Sequoia has an understanding of LHP/RHP closer along the lines to my own, judging by her Feri blog: the LHP is Service-to-Self-oriented, on the surface, while the RHP is Service-to-Others-oriented, again, only on the surface. (Any mis-categorizations can be clarified in the comments, and I apologize in advance. Nothing summed up ever quite communicates the whole.)

My own comment was made in passing, and Jason mentions the point I was making in passing in his post:

... you do personally kind of have to pick one approach or the other for yourself, at least until you can transcend the whole shibang and deal with causality as such ...
When you get into any path, you'll soon find yourself doing both LHP and RHP Work. Thelemites help little old ladies carry in their groceries, and the Blake OTO lodge in my area has a Toys for Tots thing they do throughout the year. Many fervent Christians and Pagans are some of the most materialistic and selfish people you'll ever meet. Hell, I'm a Christian who conjures demons and quotes Crowley as often as the Bible, and I can rarely get through a post without swearing.

But like Jason says, eventually you transcend LHP and RHP. Let these two asses be set to grind corn. It's such a waste of time worrying about it. Worry more about why you still need a label to describe yourself than picking one, sez I. There's nothing more selfish than a RHP person; they're doing it for themselves, yo. There's nothing more giving than a LHP person; you just don't want what they're giving most days. ;)

I like the idea that it's about passions more than the target of your actions. Even in that paradigm of the dichotomy (dichotomies got pradigms!), there's still going to be times when the RHP person uses ecstatic mystical exercises to attain, and there will be times when the LHP person subdues their passion to gain control over it. We're all ambidextrous in practice, and creating terms and conditions to apply to these terms is ... well, it's not turd polishing, but it's still pretty useless.

Fuck the LHP/RHP bullshit. Do magic, for yourself and others, and have fun. YOU are but an EYE; what eye none knoweth.* Skip witches, hop toads, take your pleasure! For the play of the Universe is the pleasure of YOU.

* Yeah, I said it, and yes, yes it is unsuited for your Grade. Because you've got EYES. And you're READING THIS. But I don't care anymore. I'm sayin' it because I got to.


  1. I totally agree. I've never found the distinction useful or necessary which is why I've avoided those silly labels! Screw that LHP/RHP bullshit! Screw it to the core!

  2. The reason I found the distinction helpful in this case was for one reason only.

    I was considering getting involved with Ordo Templi Orientis for lack of a local body of the Golden Dawn or anything related -- out of the sheer fact that I wanted to be involved (As you have said, I am a "people person" and ask questions that books don't cover).

    I do think that the dichotomy is arbitrary and serves no practical purposes, but seeing the "distinction" in such basic, lucid terminology in Jason's post helped me realize *why* I was having trouble accepting the whole of Thelema and the structure and functionality of OTO for my own pursuits -- so I proclaimed to myself "Oh! I'm just on the other side of the spectrum".

    Note that it is the same spectrum, it is the same coin, it is the same rod, all varying degrees of the same thing -- if you will, but for my own advancement, I have to operate in the mindset that I am RHP and not LHP, that there is a distinction between "my" path and "that" path.

    Call me a prude if you will, but "With my hawk-head I poke at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross", and "I believe in her name BABALON", makes my stomach twist a lil' bit.

    Suffice it to say, I don't say "Thelema IS LHP" and "Christianity IS RHP" -- that's a blind out look, but needless to say, a Christian Mystic will operate and have a different mindset than a Thelemite would.

  3. These terms come from a Western misunderstanding (specifically Helena Blavatski's) of Tantra, an ancient Indian esoteric tradition.

    Tantra is divided into two different paths: dakshinachara and vamachara, which translate as Right-Hand Path and Left-Hand Path.

    Dakshinachara is the more traditional ascetic Hindu path, involving intense prolonged meditative practices while Vamachara observe ritual practices that involve such taboos as sexual rituals, consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants, animal sacrifice, and flesh-eating.

    Both are considered equally effective paths to Enlightenment, but Vamachara is considered a more dangerous and perhaps faster path. This is the origin of George Lucas's idea of the Force having a Light and Dark side, and the Dark side being the faster path to attaining powers (called Siddhis in Hinduism/Yoga).

    Crowley took this in another direction, and applied it to the Paths of the Tree of Life, and the columns of Severity and Mercy. Interestingly enough, a 'Brother of the Left-Hand Path' in Crowley's estimation was one who failed at crossing the Abyss and was spiraling into self-destruction as a 'Black Brother'. So the idea that Thelema is 'Left-Hand Path' is just more misunderstanding of both Vamachara *and* Thelema.

    The terms 'Right-Hand Path' and 'Left-Hand Path' are meaningless in the context of Western Esotericism, and it is just as insulting (IMHO) for Occultists to try to appropriate those terms as it is for George Lucas to take Eastern mysticism, strip out the people who developed these beliefs, replace them with white people, and turn the whole mess into multi-million dollar films. We should be better than this if we seek to understand the Truth of the Universe - we should be above this kind of colonialism.

    The Lightning Flash moves down the Tree, arcing through each Sephiroth. We must ascend through each Sephira, embodying it and balancing its forces within us. There is no straight ascent through the Pillar of Mercy or the Pillar of Severity. The only straight path is the Path of the Arrow going straight up the Middle Pillar. This is the path of religion and spirituality.

    As Rufus Opus said - move beyond this trivial and overly discriminatory way of classifying spiritual practices. It is just the first of many dead ends and blinders that you will encounter while drawing closer to the Truth.

  4. The problem with the LHP and RHP discussion is that these terms are being conflated with asian religious concepts that have no direct correlation to the western traditions. We can make comparisons but the cultural context needed for those ideas to be fully grasped is entirely absent and certainly not translatable so easily.

    This is one of the main problem with practising either Hindu or Buddhist Tantra in the west - even by those sincere seekers who embrace the full system without conflating it with western magical practices - their own cultural conditioning and lack of immersion in the cultures in which those tantric practices originate becomes a major problem leading the perversion and distortion of said practices (even if unintentional).

    This was one of the main reasons the infamous Chogyam Trungpa went to such lengths to attempt to translate the vajrayana system into a model that westerners could access without twisting it with their own subjectivity.

    And its arguable whether even he was able to successfully do so.

    Now going even further and attempting to project all of this onto western magical practices, is quite frankly - absurd.


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.