… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Left-Hand/Right-Hand Paths

The terms Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path stem from the Tantric tradition and are concepts still in use today. There are three major schools of Tantra: Kaula, Mishra and Samaya. Kaula Tantra uses external practices and rituals, as opposed to the Samaya School which is a completely internal process. Kaula Tantra is divided into the Left-Hand Path (vamachara, or vama marga) and includes external rituals involving sexual practices, eating meat and the consumption of intoxicants; and the Right-Hand Path (dakshinachara) which uses a symbolic expression of these rituals and is characterised by ascetism and meditation. Both paths are viewed as equally valid paths to enlightenment. The LHP however is actually viewed as the faster but more dangerous route.

The terms first came into use in the West through the founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Blavatsky (1831 – 1891). She referred to religions she thought of as good as of the RHP and those she thought of as bad (specifically those involving sexual rites) as of the LHP. The terms were taken up by other occultists such as Aleister Crowley.

Aleister Crowley used these terms to describe a stage of spiritual development which required the adept to shed any traces of ego and leap in full faith into the void. If the adept had not managed to abandon these layers of self, then the layers would ossify around him; ultimately he would disintegrate against his own will. The adept who did not abandon self was referred to as the “Brother of the Left-Hand Path”. As you can see, Crowley’s own assessment of the LHP was not exactly positive as it marked a failure in the adept’s path, and yet he is seen in the popular mind as being associated with Satanism, which proudly defines itself as an LHP. Of course, Crowley predated any of the popular Satanism à la Anton LaVey, which is where we see the practice of some LHP belief systems of inverting the symbols of the RHP – hence inverted crucifixes.

Below is a table briefly outlining some of the differences between the paths.

Left-Hand Path

Right-Hand Path

Belief that we can become divine in our own right

Belief in a deity/deities

Narcissism – altruism is just long-term selfishness and a form of self-deception.

Altruism

Flexible morality that bends to the achievement of our own goals – all actions should aim to cultivate the self (but not necessarily the ego)

Belief in moral codes such as the Threefold Law, Mosaic Law, Karma etc. that stem from a higher power

Preservation of self and personal power

Ultimate goal is to merge with God consciousness/integration with deity and to lose self

Sexual rites, animal sacrifice, meat-eating, consumption of drugs and alcohol

Ascetism, meditation

Belief that the forces of the universe can be harnessed, and that an equal partnership is struck with deity figures to achieve your own goals

Belief that deity will provide; saviour belief; deity is a higher power not an equal

From this we can see that there is no set, defined moral code followed by LHP practitioners. Their aim is self-development and temporal, more materialistic and worldly aims; and yet I would doubt that practitioners who would align themselves with the RHP cannot see aspects of themselves in the LHP and vice versa. Some people use these terms to deliberately move away from the dichotomy of black and white magic which they see as too cut and dry. They consider these two paths to be yin and yang – necessary complements that create a balance. Like the yin/yang symbol there is perhaps a spot of LHP in RHP practitioners and a spot of RHP in LHP practitioners.

Personally, I cannot see how total preservation of self, self-indulgence and narcissism can lead to enlightenment, and I wonder if modern-day practitioners, for example, of LHP magic have enlightenment as their goal as posited by the original Tantric concept, or whether it has degenerated to a search for self-satisfaction. My ultimate aim IS to merge with deity, this is the purpose of my magic-work, to align myself ever closer with deity. But to survive in this world, I do think we need a healthy sense of self-preservation and self-motivation. My views mix the God will provide idea with the idea that we can harness the energies of the universe. In Egyptian mythology, heka (magic) was given to us as a tool from the gods so that we can help ourselves. In that sense, we are neither relying entirely on divine intervention, nor do we believe that we are the sole orchestrators of our magic work. I am a priestess to my deities. I serve them, but I am not servile.

It would be easy to give a knee-jerk response to the LHP and to vociferously align ourselves with the side of the “Good” RHP, but I think that would be too easy and a cop out of examining our own true motivations. Whatever we may wish to be, on reflection I think we may find that we are all a bit ambidextrous!
© starofseshat 2008

References:
swamij
dpjs
wiki
experience festival
sourcery forge
blavatsky

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37 responses

  1. The Green Witch

    I quite agree with your assessment that we must all claim parts of each path. There cannot be any clear delineation between the two; each holds aspects of the other central to its existence.

    Your ‘servant, not servile’ analogy struck home, too; we serve, but we are not abased; we follow but are not cowed. Such a joy when one compares with the flagellation required in parts of the major Western religions.

    June 16, 2008 at 6:50 pm

  2. Peace Star of Seshat,

    I haven’t had a chance to look through this yet, though it looks very interesting.

    Abdur Rahman

    June 17, 2008 at 1:15 pm

  3. starofseshat

    Take your time. I’m not going anywhere 🙂
    Blessed Be
    Star of Seshat

    June 17, 2008 at 1:25 pm

  4. Interesting! I also agree that there is a need for an element of integration here. Reading down the lists I see that I embrace many of both ‘paths’ which makes me wonder if the distinction is as clear cut as this table suggests.

    I also find ‘moral code’ an interesting phrase. I struggle with these terms because as a gay man I feel that I have been crusading against those that term themselves as the ‘moral majority’ all my life! I’ve been labelled as this, that and the other, by Christians and Pagans alike, simply because of my sexual orientation – something that is fundamentally me and part of the very unchangeable bedrock of my personality and nature. Therefore, whenever I hear the word ‘moral’ I want to run to the hills! Who is anyone to impose their morals on another (not that you’re suggesting this for one moment!) and who is anyone to say that they are moral and another is not?

    Dion Fortune had no time for Aleister Crowley because she deemed him as of the LHP, and she had no time for homosexuality. Crowley use gay sex within his sex magick, and to good effect, it seems. Whilst I have no time for some of Crowley’s antics, I cannot take away from the huge influence he has made on the occult world and indirectly on wicca and other forms of witchcraft. A lot of his work speaks powerfully to me.

    So this is a terribly long winded and somewhat confused way of saying that I embrace many of the attributes ascribed to both the LH and RHP.

    What on earth does that make me? Confused, probably!

    June 17, 2008 at 4:47 pm

  5. starofseshat

    I know what you mean Andy, I have a similar response to women’s issues. Personally I find a moral code an important tool against which to orient my actions. I think the crucial point is that we should consider what our own moral code consists of, really give thought to what is right and just in our own eyes, what would make us people of integrity, as opposed to taking on the “majority morals” wholesale.

    I think the point about the LHP and RHP is that they are aspirational paths and opposite extremes. We may ASPIRE to follow one or the other, but as human beings we fall short and are actually a combination of both (perhaps only mystics and madmen/-women can achieve such extremes).

    I think the concepts of the LHP and RHP present interesting starting points for questioning our own morality. This is maybe something that a lot of “religious” people do not do – “I am told that abortion, women-priests, practising homosexuality etc. is wrong, therefore this is what I MUST believe and it’s too scary to think that my church/synagogue etc. might be wrong.” Questioning the morality of a group we belong to can force us to realise we don’t actually belong there. That is a very frightening thought for some people, so then it is easier to bow to the majority and advocate “majority morals”. Unfortunately this fear of questioning majority opinion has led to social disasters such as the Holocaust.

    I think we need to give conscious thought to our own moral code, drawing on whatever source is useful. Abandoning all morals or bending to the majority without due consideration are actions of the spiritually afraid. I have sympathy for such people – I understand fear – but ultimately we need to find that courage in order to progress on our Paths.

    June 18, 2008 at 7:02 am

  6. Peace Star of Seshat, and everyone else too…

    A very interesting conversation is developing here, and I am both glad and honoured to be a part of it.

    The more I think and reflect, the more I come to see the importance of the twin poles of ‘self’ and ‘other’ – which seems to lie beneath much of what we’re talking about here. A number of questions emerge from this point: that is, what does it mean to speak of ‘self’, especially in relationship to the ‘other’? Is the ‘self’ bad – that is, do we need to move beyond it? How do we orient ourselves to what is other?

    Such questions, it strikes me, underpin our approaches to morality – indeed, they seem to be the most basic questions of morality.

    For myself, I can see that someone pursuing self-development – in the manner of left-hand path you describe here – is not necessarily ‘evil’. Self-development in itself is a worthy thing to pursue. Perhaps it becomes a problem when it leads to obsession with the ‘self’ and its desires – or when it becomes obsessed with the desires of our ‘outer shell’. In such circumstances, it is then a small step to belittling the importance of the other. This is what I would take to be the essence of the Wiccan injunction to act ‘for the good of all’.

    Many of the terms and ideas behind them, exist within the universe that is the Islamic tradition. There is a very lively esoteric tradition within Islam – though, for all sorts of reasons, it is not very visible at present. Basically, at the risk of over-simplification, the world is thought of in terms of ‘outer’ (zahir) and inner (‘batin’). Many of the same attitudes and orientations towards inner growth exist in this tradition – but perhaps that’s a discussion for a later stage.

    Sorry to have taken up so much space! It is indeed a very interesting discussion, and a refreshingly honest one. So, thank you one and all – and my last mention should go to Star of Seshat, for it is indeed the place of honour.

    Peace, one and all….

    Abdur Rahman

    June 18, 2008 at 2:08 pm

  7. I suppose, for a loose collection of free-thinking and independent people, such as those who gather on these pages, it is difficult to understand the fear of questioning and adherence to group morality. I know it happens, I have seen it, but to understand the places of fear that people come from to be fearful enough to accept what may be questionable is difficult to understand and assimilate. We are not the ‘norm’ and your insight into the differences is helpful to me.

    June 18, 2008 at 2:12 pm

  8. starofseshat

    Thank you, Abdur Rahman. I think you are right that morality often hinges on the relationship to self and other; and that an obsession with self can lead to the exclusion or belittling of other.
    Many Eastern traditions advocate full loss of self (e.g. Buddhism), and certain Christian traditions call on a loss of self in Christ in order to become Christ-like. This can indeed make you feel that anything to do with self must be bad and evil, otherwise why would these major religions focus so much on getting rid of it?
    Perhaps this is where nature-based religions can offer a better balance as they appear to acknowledge the individual more than some major religions that focus on being in line with the rules of the group. This is also why mystics of ALL faiths have appealed to me because they talk of an intimate relationship with deity, whereas the coarse public face of most religions is about following the crowds (in my experience).

    Hi Mereth, If I’ve understood you right, I must be more the “norm” then 🙂 because part of my journey in becoming who I am today was about turning and facing the major religions (Christianity and Judaism) that I was brought up with. It has been very frightening to detach myself from that group morality and stand on my own. Life would be so much easier for me if I was “just a Christian”. Every now and then I am still beset by doubts about what I do, and then I have to repeat the process of looking at my moral focus: my “moral focus” for me means the way I live my life. My personal experience is that it is a repeat process of contemplating my Path and making a stand against the expectations of the group (family, work, the town I live in, Christian society etc.) to do what I think is right. This is never a comfortable experience and it is fraught with fear because such contemplation often pushes me to Change, and being human, I am a creature of habit and don’t embrace ALL change that gladly. Looking at the LHP/RHP morality for me is just a method of shaking me out of my occasional complacency, something I think most people suffer from at some time or other.

    June 18, 2008 at 4:15 pm

  9. I would say that is important to find our own true will, the Self we were always intended to be, but not a moral code as such. I don’t think that it makes you spiritually weak to not have a moral code, in fact, I think the opposite is true. As soon as I adopt a moral code, I place myself in a hierarchal position and I infer that people who do not adhere to this code are wrong – when in fact, no one is wrong. What are morals anyway? Simply a patterning that we are told to follow that have the affect of making us part of the mass, as opposed to the individuals we really are. Any if we hold ‘morals’ and someone else holds an opposing view, is one right and one wrong? Who judges, and by what criteria to we judge? Is anyone in a position to judge anyway? Morals are full of religious bigotry that seek to impose values upon people and stifle individuality and personal freedom, they are often the enemy of self expression.

    I don’t think anyone falls short, because there is nothing to attain. All we simply have to do is relax into the person we were called to be before name and form and stop striving to be anything other than that.

    Just a few of my thoughts!

    June 18, 2008 at 5:22 pm

  10. starofseshat

    Hi Andy, That’s an interesting point: Do we need morals?
    I think it depends greatly on what you means by morals and what you associate with that.
    I think morals are important for me to act with integrity and consistency: in my past I have done things I regret, and these times were generally times of “not being true to myself”. You are right that becoming the self we were intended to be is crucial. But that in my mind is not to the exclusion of a moral code, on the contrary, considering what I think is right and wrong, and acting accordingly, supports me in being true to myself.
    I don’t think that just because a person has a moral code it necessarily means that the person will judge others negatively or be a bigot. That certainly happens, but it doesn’t have to be like that. In my mind, that is again the difference between “the coarse face of religion” which advocates a group morality; if you don’t belong to that group, then yes, you are judged as lacking/wrong. But as I said in my response to Abdur Rahman, my focus is on personal responsibility, personal morals and how I want to live my live so that it is consonant with my spiritual beliefs – in that sense we are saying the same thing: Quoting Shakespeare in Hamlet – To thine own self be true, then it shall follow as the night the day, thou shalt not then be false to any man.
    By looking at my “moral code” (i.e. what I value, what I think is right and wrong) I SUPPORT my journey in being true to myself. Only by being true to myself can I be honest with my fellow man/woman.

    June 18, 2008 at 6:27 pm

  11. Hello All

    Thanks for the thought- provoking post Star of Seshat; particularly the spectrum indicated in your matrix of ‘flexible morality’ versus ‘Belief in moral codes such as the Threefold Law, Mosaic Law, Karma etc. that stem from a higher power.’

    In my humble opinion spiritual progress is made by the observance of law from the ‘higher power’ (or should I say the ‘highest power’..).

    I would suggest this is because spiritual progress is made by both our relationship to the divine and our fellow human beings. If we want to treat our fellow human beings in a spiritual way then we need to do so within a non-subjective moral framework. (i.e. If we cannot agree on what is ‘spiritual’ how can we behave in a spiritual way to each other..).

    (Whoops..I seem to have taken the discussion off at a tangent:-))

    June 18, 2008 at 6:44 pm

  12. Ceri

    Thanks for clarifying the above, I’m with you on these being the two extremes so to speak and that we probably encompass traits from both hand paths, but like yin and yan are never fully in either. Surely it would be very difficult to actively choose either direction, commit and remain fully and solely in one.

    Sometimes it is necessary, if not essential to step out of the comfort zone and speak out. There is no value in being a sycophantic follower, how can we progress or be true to ourselves in this? We can not, simple as that. If being true to ourselves involves holding an opinion, speaking out against injustice, exploitation and corruption, is this wrong?

    Who holds the monopoly on moral codes?, we have no need to conform to rules and standards imposed by others. For what reason?

    We can only judge ourselves

    June 18, 2008 at 8:27 pm

  13. Ceri

    Of course the adopting of a ‘moral high ground’ can act as a mask for other issues such as insecurity,jealousy,control etc.
    How can we objectively know our own motivations?

    June 18, 2008 at 8:43 pm

  14. I think that perhaps what you are terming as your ‘moral code’ I tend to term ‘my philosophy’. That may sound picky, but I think the word ‘morals’ carries with it a lot of ‘baggage’ that infers pre-judgement, whereas ‘personal philosophy’ tends to imply just that – ones own view on how one lives ones life, with no sense of implying others should follow suit. Any Pagan path isn’t evangelical, in that sense.

    June 18, 2008 at 9:36 pm

  15. starofseshat

    Hi Ceri, quite right 🙂
    Hi Andy, let’s not disagree purely over semantics 🙂 The words “morals” and “moral code” have no negative association for me which I why I use them, yes, to basically express what is my “personal philosophy”.

    It’s very difficult when talking on a subject like this to ensure that everyone understands and uses concepts the same way. However, we could spend forever defining terms and never actually get around to discussing anything!

    Hail and welcome, Karl,
    Nope, you have kept the discussion bang on topic as far as I’m concerned. But the question of a higher power dictating morals throws up an awful lots of concerns, especially in the pagan community, where spirituality is essentially experiential rather than didactic. If you believe that a higher power has dictated your morals then you ARE saying that you are right and others must be wrong – after all, God told you/your ancestors/your spiritual community.

    In comment 5 I mentioned “drawing on whatever source is useful” in the consideration of your moral code. I am not so arrogant as to think that deity has not revealed truth to other religions. On the contrary, there is immense truth in most religions and we would be fools not to at least look at it. BUT when it comes to major religions and the moral codes “dictated by God” it is very difficult to essentially establish the difference between core morals and culturally developed morals that are purported to be from God (such as Jewish Orthodox women wearing a wig over their natural hair). Also, you have serious problems of interpretation. An “innocent” moral law can be perverted into all sorts of abhorent and intolerant behaviour – we are back to semantics again.

    Personally I think if we are serious about our spirituality we have to be open to looking at other religions and what they have to say. God is at the centre of our beings. By developing a right and true relationship to self, we can align ourselves with our God centre and right behaviour should follow from that. Also, if you look at the mystic traditions of all religions, they are basically saying the same things (core morals?) – so agreement can be found on what is “spiritual” even amongst those with superficially different moral codes (culturally defined moral codes?).

    At the end of the day, what scope of moral laws are we envisaging – 10 commandments? 613 Mitzvot?

    Jesus’ summary 2 commands of “Love the Lord your God” and “Do to others as you would have done unto yourself” are a pretty good starting base (and by the way, this was not original teaching but merely repetition of rabbinic teaching popular at that time in Jerusalem anyway).

    Whenever I think of divinely dictated law from a Higher Power, I just think of lists and lists of laws and limitations. These can be very useful if you want to abdicate responsibility and just follow the rules – unfortunately that is when the heart drops out of religion, and that can lead to un-Godly actions. I still think the starting point has to be our own hearts, where God dwells.

    June 19, 2008 at 7:23 am

  16. Peace, one and all…

    Allah! The discussion is becoming ever more interesting! How can I resist joining in? 😉

    Perhaps, given that I am a Muslim, I am inclined to see things in certain ways. But, when I speak of ‘self’ and ‘other’, I also understand that beneath both lies oneness – unity. As a Muslim, I would understand that Oneness to be Allah/God. That is, ‘self’ and ‘other’ are human attempts to understand things; they are a description: they are not the reality itself.

    I find this idea helpful in considering all sorts of issues, including morality/ethics/personal philosophy. That is, I strive to hold in my mind that my own ideas regarding true morality are merely partial. That is, they are not God’s own truth – but my human approximations of that truth; they are my interpretations. Some interpretations are better than others, of course and for me, in the sphere of ethics, this is why it is important to realise that this is always and forever a work in progress – any truth that I come to know is merely my approximation and no more. I am merely a tiny cup – I cannot hold the vastness of the Ocean of Truth in its entirety.

    For me, my own ‘moral code’ (or philosophy) is based on my understanding of Islam’s ethical norms – in the above provisional sense. I strive to use it as a filter and not as a prescriptive list. If I do something I know is wrong, it sticks in the filter (my metaphorical throat) and I feel its wrongness.

    Perhaps it might be helpful to think of morality as an orientation towards things rather than as a list of contents. In this way, perhaps, we can realise that there is struggle on all parts. That is, we honour the ‘other’ when we take our ‘self’ out into the world.

    Perhaps ‘morals’ does imply pre-judgement all of the time. I’m not sure. But, in a sense, don’t we all pre-judge? Don’t we all make assumptions about future events based on previous experience? For me the difficult but comes in letting my experience ‘speak’ to the emerging situation in a healthy, positive manner.

    God willing, this conversation will continue. I am really learning from our time spent in dialogue. Allah!

    Abdur Rahman

    June 19, 2008 at 11:03 am

  17. starofseshat

    That’s very well put, Abdur Rahman. The idea of oneness behind self and other is something I have been reading about in Buddhism. I identify very much with this idea, and it is the concept behind my belief that through knowing ourselves we can unite with our God-centre and right action will follow.

    Perfectly put: “human approximations of that truth” and “I cannot hold the vastness of the Ocean of Truth in its entirety” – absolutely!

    Yes, I think we all pre-judge. It’s also a way of protecting ourselves, otherwise we would not be wary around bullies and abusers, but stumble into the same situations again and again. But our morals are not always based on experience – especially within an institutionalised religious framework: some people have no experience and little information about homosexuals, abortion, witchcraft (!) – and yet all are damned by the morals of some people. By following these kind of rules that (in my mind) have little to do with divine truth, we surely lose the heart of our relationship with God?

    And yes, when it comes to basing our behaviour on past experience, it can be difficult to act in a balanced, and honest manner, not just to act out of fear.

    “Acting in a spiritual way” is much more complex than following a set number of rules, but often established religions limit it to just that – after all, it’s easier to teach rules by rote than to teach cultivation of a relationship with God. Hence the excommunication of someone like Martin Luther from the Catholic Church for advocating (among other things) that every one should be able to read the bible in the vernacular and develop their own relationship with scripture. This is highly threatening for established religions, because from personal interpretation comes discord which can threaten and undermine the establishment.

    Phew! Now who’s going off topic? 🙂 I think I shall step down off my soap-box – I’m getting dizzy 😉

    June 19, 2008 at 12:08 pm

  18. Peace Star of Seshat,

    If you’re getting dizzy perhaps you need to join the whirling dervishes! 😉 (Actually, this is the broad tradition I aspire to myself).

    I take your point about people who act without direct personal experience. Perhaps this is because they have acted without thought, without trying to internalise the ethical teachings (in the sense of it being a filter)?

    Perhaps rules are a starting point? Perhaps as we grow, we learn to internalise these ‘rules’ (perhaps principles would be better) – or we should at any rate. Once a principle is internalised it is no longer ‘other’ it is our own – and we must continually struggle to make it ‘live’ within ourselves.

    So, what then is the aim of magic in the context of your own specific tradition?

    Abdur Rahman

    June 19, 2008 at 1:21 pm

  19. starofseshat

    Shalom Abdur Rahman,
    Whirling dervishes! Wonderful – they captured my imagination as a child. along with ecstatic Chassidic dance. Alas, I have too strong a Germanic strain to allow much ecstatic movement – a semi-rhythmic boogey alone in the living room is all I can muster 🙂

    Morality and spellwork is something I touched on a bit in my Spellwork II posting. As to the aim of magic per se – it can be whatever you want it to be 🙂
    I shall have a longer think and post something separate specifically on that subject. At the moment, I need to go and rest with a cuppa. My health is not holding up too well at the moment and it’s been a tough day. Just so you know I am not being evasive. 😉 I shall post a separate “essay” in due course.
    Thank you for such sincere and well-put comments, as always.
    BB
    Star of Seshat

    June 19, 2008 at 3:14 pm

  20. starofseshat

    Obviously, if anyone else wishes to comment on what the aim of magic is for them, they are more than welcome. I’m just planning a post on this, so don’t feel ready to comment here yet 🙂

    June 19, 2008 at 4:13 pm

  21. The Green Witch

    Perhaps ‘morals’ does imply pre-judgement all of the time. I’m not sure. But, in a sense, don’t we all pre-judge? Don’t we all make assumptions about future events based on previous experience? For me the difficult but comes in letting my experience ’speak’ to the emerging situation in a healthy, positive manner.

    Blessings to all – and what a fantastic comments thread and original post this is!

    Having the great luxury of four hours uninterrupted time to myself this evening I feel I can do the thread justice at last; I’ll come onto the magic question in a moment.

    Abdur, you are so right. The human condition requires that we interpret our experience within a framework of previous associations. This is the principal way in which humans learn. I believe the term is ‘heuristic’. Trial and error. And undoubtedly, those trials and errors colour our perceptions and cause us to pre-judge situations.

    To recognise that innate process and try to guard against it is impossibly difficult, but yet the task must be undertaken, if we are ever to rise above ourselves and really understand.

    The aim of magic… well. That’s a tough one!

    In my daily life, magic plays no part. At least, not magic that I have instigated myself.

    Magic, to me, is for things that I simply cannot accomplish by myself. And when I say ‘things’, I don’t mean the acquisition of money, or position, or ease, or any of the things it might seem easy to cast spells for. There is a whole other argument right there, one which I’m involved with on another site as we speak. I feel intensely that it is wrong to cast magic for personal gain.

    Others don’t agree, but I won’t enumerate the arguments here.

    To me, magic, properly done, should benefit yourself, your associates and the world at large, but I limit myself to asking for strength with which to accomplish my tasks. I do more workings for others than myself, and every working contains work for others.

    If I need help, if I need to banish negativity, if I need to protect myself, I can work for these things. If I wanted to win the lottery or not have to work, well; no spell’s going to help you there!

    You will see that the magic I do is quite rigidly circumscribed; I believe the boundary is the faith I follow. And here we are back to morals once more; I do not feel it is moral to ask for things I can perfectly well set my mind to achieving the ‘old fashioned’ way. In certain branches of Wicca and witchcraft, this makes me an austere and forbidding character, and lacking in fun and daring to boot. 🙂

    June 19, 2008 at 9:24 pm

  22. Hello All
    Star of Seshat thank you for your reply to my post. You say that-

    ‘Acting in a spiritual way” is much more complex than following a set number of rules, but often established religions limit it to just that – after all, it’s easier to teach rules by rote than to teach cultivation of a relationship with God’

    I can appreciate your point of view that when religious law becomes ossified it is sometimes becomes a mere list of prohibitions. I would also agree with Abdur Rahman that obedience to the law is just the starting point of a relationship with God and humanity. However I would suggest it is a very important starting point. It is both a personal spiritual discipline and provides an ethical framework within which we can relate to others. Another key issue of course is the suitability of the law to present social conditions. I have tried to follow the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh since my youth (I am now an ancient forty-four years old…):-) There is a quotation from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, which I always find very inspiring-
    ‘Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power…’
    The more I observe the sad spiritual condition of this nation of ours the more I appreciate the wisdom of these laws in areas such as prohibition of alcohol and drugs, teachings on personal morality etc.

    Regards

    Karl

    June 19, 2008 at 10:10 pm

  23. starofseshat

    Hi Karl,
    I see what you are saying, and I do agree with you. But it is difficult to define whose law is The Law – if one advocates that one’s religion is The Path to God, then all others are wrong and religious wars ensue – somehow we need to get past this, but not lose the gem that structured religions can offer. Spiritual discipline is key, and I 100% agree with you on appreciating the prohibition of alcohol and drugs, especially when looking at today’s society. The only drugs I take are presribed by my doctor, and I don’t drink alcohol. Originally this was all for health reasons; however, even if my health allowed it I would not go back now, it has become my personal choice.
    Beautiful quote – thank you. Please continue adding your comments, they are much appreciated.

    Hi Greenie 😉
    Reading your comment has made me realise my real reticence at commenting. I think I am in a transition period and have been for a while with regard to my views on spellwork and morality. I used to be entirely against spellwork. I couldn’t see the point of it – like you, I thought, if I CAN do it myself I should. However, this was coupled with a generous amount of curiosity and a desire to explore spellwork further. I’ve said several times on this blog about how the Egyptian myth says that the Gods gave us magic as a tool to use in our lives. I believe this and am still pondering the morality of what I would allow myself to do, and what not.
    My Spellwork I & II posts are where I am currently at. But I think that I am moving towards a more liberal stance on spellwork in general. This is what I want to give more thought to, before posting a more detailed commentary.

    Austere? Forbidding? Lacking in fun? Funnily enough I think that is often how I come across – most definitely not you!! You are bright, joyous, approachable and loving – and don’t let anyone tell you different!!

    June 20, 2008 at 7:18 am

  24. Peace Star of Seshat,

    I hope I haven’t added to any difficulties caused by ill health. Allah! I would be horrified to think so. At any rate, I only expect you to comment/write new material to the extent that you want to yourself. If it seemed as though I as impatient, forgive me as it was not my intent. I have just been really enjoying this conversation. As the Green Witch says, it has been an interesting and original discussion all round.

    As for whirling, I too can just about manage the Anglo-Saxon shuffle! Move from foot to the other – at one of two speeds, slow or a somewhat frenetic ‘fast’! 😉

    Peace Green Witch, thank you for your insightful comments. Although I don’t work magic, I would agree with your comments – I too strive to live in this way. Although I am aware that magic is a structured exercise/ritual, perhaps there is a sense in which the work of purifying/educating the soul is a kind of magic?

    Peace Karl, interesting comments! Perhaps rules ossify in this way when human beings allow them to become separated from themselves. I like the quote you share from Bahaullah. In a sense, this is what I am trying to say: if someone gives you a bottle of wine (perhaps a strange thing for a Muslim to write!) it remains an unknown shell until it is opened and shared! Perhaps this is how morality is/should be?

    Abdur Rahman

    June 20, 2008 at 12:02 pm

  25. starofseshat

    You didn’t add to my difficulties, at all, Abdur Rahman. A tough day at work while feeling poorly was enough to do that 🙂 I’m flattered by your interest.
    Loved your description of the Anglo-Saxon shuffle!
    I agree that purifying and educating the soul is a kind of magic, but it works equally the other way around: magic can be a way of purifying and educating your soul. More on that in another post though. 😉

    June 22, 2008 at 8:24 am

  26. lindon71

    hey could you tell me more about the LHP and the RHP,want to learn more

    July 8, 2008 at 3:52 pm

  27. starofseshat

    hey back atcha! What do you want to know? What reading have you done so far? Have you done any other research on the internet? Which path are you most interested in? Or is it both? What is your background? Are you pagan? Magician? Witch? Other? 🙂
    BB
    Seshat

    July 8, 2008 at 4:03 pm

  28. lindon71

    thanks for your reply seshat,could you guide me as to which books to read? the info on the net is very limited as far as the LHP and the RHP IS CONCERNED, i am interested in the both, iam a christian

    July 8, 2008 at 6:55 pm

  29. starofseshat

    Hi Lindon,
    There is a little information out there on the net, but you are right it is sparse and mostly you have to read around other subjects to get the nugget referring to Tantra – and often they just talk about sex.
    I would recommend going to the source (Tibetan Buddhism). Here are two books to start with:
    Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire, by Lama Yeshe and
    Clear Light of Bliss, Tantric Meditation Manual, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (I’d recommend anything by the latter author, he’s written extensively about Buddhism).
    I myself have not been able to find any inter-disciplinary literature that looks at the concepts of the LHP and RHP through various religions. Although you have to take what people say and what they class as the LHP in particular with a pinch of salt. Most people who haven’t looked at the true sources of the terms LHP and RHP have a generalised and often incorrect view that LHP = hedonistic Satanism and RHP doesn’t even come into consideration. After all, hedonistic Satanism sounds so much more interesting than being altruistic! 😉 So, for example, Aleister Crowley is often seen as a proponent of the LHP and yet he refers to the LHP as descriptive of a critical failure in an adept’s spiritual path. This is what I mean by don’t just take peoples’ assessments at face value. The terms LHP and RHP are used differently by different people. I would advise going to the source in Tantric Buddhism, learning what the terms originally meant and then applying what you have learnt to an examination of other religions/spiritual paths. A long path, but no knowledge that’s worth knowing is come by easily.
    Good luck!
    Seshat

    July 9, 2008 at 6:59 am

  30. lindon71

    thank you very much seshat!! i’ll try to hunt for the said books,being from a land of tantra-mantra, still i find it difficult to come across a genuine person who can tell me about tantrikism, in fact it’s a very secret community here they never reveal their secret rituals & practises, most of the tantriks it seems spend the nights at the crematorium practising their rituals & meditating (ii wonder whether this practise is LHP or RHP), it also seems that they have the power to contact spirits & assign specific tasks to them, as you said correctly the LHP sounds very interesting! occult itself is very vast subject to decipher!! thank you once again on your inputs! i feel you are one of those rarest people who belive in sharing knowledge, please keep on sharing your knowledge and i sincerely wish you loads of success in your choosen path to attain your spiritual goal,do keep me in your prayers so that i too will be able to find the right path, just one question it hit my mind now!i’ve read about candle magik any simpler way to practise it using white candles?
    thank you seshat!

    July 9, 2008 at 1:56 pm

  31. starofseshat

    You’re welcome, Lindon. The books are available on Amazon. As long as they are in stock and not with a marketplace seller, I believe they ship to most countries, although I don’t know what they charge for shipping.

    As to simplifying candle magic: I don’t think that is a good idea. The principle of candle magic is one of the simpler forms of spellwork. It may be tricky getting all the materials you need, but in that case be innovative. If you can only buy white candles then gather symbols/flowers/cloths in appropriate colours to decorate around the candle, or try to make your own by melting down white candles and adding appropriate dyes (be careful though! Only use dyes made specifically for candle-making, or you could have a fire hazard! There are candlemaker supply shops online where you can buy powdered dyes and dye discs.). Or decorate white candles, again using appropriate candle dye paints.

    Ultimately you have to make some effort to show the universe that you are also willing to put in the spadework. This is a basic principle of spellwork – respect for the powers that you are calling on to help you. If you cut corners because it’s too tricky/bothersome/boring, you most certainly won’t get the response you desire. This is also one of the reasons why people advocate washing, wearing clean clothes, and setting up a clean work space before spellwork. It’s not just to put you in the right frame of mind, it is as a sign of respect to the energies you are working with. Stick at it. As you get used to the principles and slowly build up a stock of supplies, you will be glad that you didn’t cut any corners to begin with.
    BB
    Seshat

    July 9, 2008 at 2:46 pm

  32. starofseshat

    I came across a passage last night in Dion Fortune’s An Introduction to Ritual Magic which seems appropriate here:
    “Concerning the … point, that the more trouble one takes the better, the explanation is readily understood … The trouble you take helps you to prolong your concentration. It is much easier to concentrate on your hazel wand while you are whittling at it than to concentrate upon it with your hands folded in your lap.”
    Focus and concentration are always key tools for the beginner and adept alike – whether of candle magic, general spellwork or ritual magic.
    Some spells I have done have taken months to plan – the more effort you give, the more you are likely to receive. It’s best to cultivate an attitude of effort and hardwork right from the beginning, if you are serious about spellwork.
    BB
    Seshat

    July 10, 2008 at 6:36 am

  33. lindon71

    thank you sershat, i shall always remember your words, but there are so many differents path in the occult, the question is which one to choose from?i learnt bit more today on http://www.answers.com, there is a complete list of left hand paths practises but none about the right hand paths, does that mean that the LHP methods are bad? could you throw some light on this? which are the RHP methods? personally i feel that ther’s a thin line betwen good & evil, it all depends on how the person uses the powers that he is blessed with.
    the aghori cult in india is a LHP method , but their practioners are revered by the people,why do i find the LHP more interesting ?
    personally i learnt quiet afew things on your blog, thank you sershat, but i will keep on bothering you with more questions , any reference books which you could suggest on candle work? let me call you my guru(teacher)

    July 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm

  34. starofseshat

    Hi Lindon,
    No, not guru or teacher. But you may call me friend, and as friends we will learn from each other, just as I learn from all the people who come onto the blog, and maybe a few take away something good from reading it. I hope so.
    Have you had any luck in finding those books I recommended? You might like to also look at my Books Page on this blog for an idea of further reading, although obviously, the reading is weighted towards Egyptian magic and ceremonial witchcraft, so it may not be exactly what you want.

    What was the book on candle magic that you have already read? I’m afraid I can’t recommend any books on candle magic, what little I know was taught to me by my aunt. As I said before, candle magic is one of the simpler forms of spellwork and an ounce of experience is worth a pound of reading; i.e. don’t get too bogged down in reading too much, start doing. Keep a diary of what you do, what happens, how you feel about it – the rationalists may hate the idea, but magic has to be treated as a science, so approach it as a scientist. Yes, read. But experiment, log the results, ponder on what you are doing.

    What exactly is it about the LHP that interests you? How much have you looked at other paths. It might help if you didn’t split the Western occult paths into LHP and RHP, as from a WESTERN occult perspective, I think this is erroneous and leads to confusion (you will see from the comments above that most people agree that each of our paths is a combination of both aspects). It is tricky applying an Eastern concept to the Western Mystery Tradition as the term takes on a whole new meaning and is used differently by different people. In the end, the term bears little relationship to the original meaning. I see this all the time in translating: there are lots of English words that have slipped into use in German, but once there the meaning alters. When I then encounter the English word in a text I can NEVER just use that same English word because the way it is used in German has taken on a different meaning, and ironically I have to use a different English word for the translation. The same applies here.

    From my original post and comments you should be able to see that no, I don’t think the LHP is evil – they are equal and bonafide paths to achieving the same. I think from what I have read that the LHP is harder – it may be a faster path but there are greater traps along the way; the greatest being getting caught in the limitations of self and will – ego! Read the two books I recommended, and do you have any way of meeting with an actual practitioner of the LHP (you are in India, yes?)? There’s nothing better than going to the source. I am happy to tell you the little that I know, but I am not a practitioner of the LHP, so my input here will be limited.

    I am also concerned that your interest may be from an Eastern Buddhist related perspective, whereas mine is from its application to Western occult paths: this may lead to some confusion between us. Again, I ask, what specifically is your interest in the LHP? If it is from the sole perspective of practising LHP as an exclusive path in a Buddhist context, then I cannot help you. If it is out of interest to how the term is used in a Western occult tradition, then we have a topic for discussion! 🙂

    And finally, you are not “bothering” me 🙂 I’m happy to hear your thoughts and ideas.
    Goddess bless your Path.
    Seshat

    July 12, 2008 at 8:22 am

  35. lindon71

    hi seshat ,
    many thanks for your valuable inputs & for being a friend,i checked on amazon , i did come across related books , definetly i will search for them.

    regarding candle magic i have’nt read any books on the subject, let me tell you how i came in touch with candle magic, one night (around 1.am)i was bit disturbed so i thought of saying my prayers i got the idea of lighting a candle, felt good by doing so, the next day i started surfing the net for more info on using candles for personal prayers, there i came across candle magik, there are plenty of books on the subject, but the million dollar question was which one to go for as i found the concepyt very spiritual & good also its convenient when the family is around, so i thought let me ask you.

    what i found interesting about the LHP was that its faster.

    i would need your help in enligthning me with the other paths

    i have not taken any keen interest in the eastern buddhist path so far .

    since you are more informative in the western occult tradition please tell me how the term LHP is used in a Western occult tradition.

    by the way is any thing such as christian occult?

    once again thank you very much ,the reason i ask you so questions is because i have not come across any one who is willing their knowledge with me

    July 13, 2008 at 6:31 pm

  36. starofseshat

    Hi again Lindon,
    Why are you keen to move quickly along the path to enlightenment? Personally I wonder how that would combine with a family (you mentioned a family – is that parents? or are you a parent and married?) – it is tricky enough combining magical practice with a family, not impossible, but there are some difficulties. I would worry that practising an LHP path might isolate you from your family, which would be neither good for you or your family. My personal opinion, is that the LHP path might be suitable more for a bachelor who is intending to remain such and concentrate solely on his path (i.e. like a monk). However, this is my personal opinion only.
    Most of the information I know about the LHP path and it’s use in the Western Occult Tradition I have written in my original post. Madame Blavatsky was apparently the first person to actively use the terms. She lived at the end of the 19th Century (Info. on Blavatsky) when there was a growing interest in the West in yoga and all things Eastern.
    Lay people often see the LHP path as a hedonistic, no-limits, orgasmic free for all, with people who have no sense of morality. Consequently it attracts young people (looking for a thrill) and disturbed people. Some may have found the physical, transient thrill they were looking for, others will have most likely lost interest when they realised the actual level of discipline involved (after all, discipline is no fun, is it?!). And then you have those who found the right path for them.
    Aleister Crowley is often posited as a proponent of the LHP path. I think this is mostly based on his command, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”. Annoyingly and typically this quote is left in isolation, and Crowley’s own contraversial life is cited as proof of the “devil-nature” of this man and his path. However, equally important to the Thelemic philosophy (and I am very new to this area, it’s something I’m trying to research more), is the other “command”, “Love is the law, love under will” which throws an entirely different light on the licentious free-for-all implied by the first command. And as I have mentioned a couple of times, Crowley used the term to actually describe some faultering on their path, so I hardly think he would be flattered to have his path described as LHP.
    I think the interpretation in the west has often been that the LHP is less worthy than the RHP, and hence the definitions have drifted away from their original meaning in Tantric Buddhism, where both paths are equally valid ways to enlightenment. This mis-interpretation is, I think, based on the philosophy of dualism which perhaps reached its apogee in the early Gnostic religion and subsequently Hermeticism which both made huge contributions to the Western Mystery Tradition as we know it today. This philosphy split spirit and body – the body is what keeps us anchored to the earth and tempts us into sin, hence separating us from the spiritual and from unity with God: the physical is therefore viewed as bad and spiritual asceticism and negation of the physical self was seen as holy and aspirational (a philosophy taken on wholeheartedly by the Christian churches). This is I think the primary force behind the West’s suspicion of the LHP which involves a more physical approach to spirituality.
    Phew, that was a very superficial romp through history, but I hope it give you at least an idea of what I think on the subject.
    Seshat

    July 15, 2008 at 8:02 am

  37. lindon71

    hi seshat ,
    with reference to # 36 my email id is [Lindon, I have deleted your email so it is not visible to everyone],

    with reference to # 37 i will write to you tommorrow, thanks alot , your every reply filters my thought process,your eveyreply answers my questions for which i have been longing for, thank you & very eagerly looking forward to your mail,

    best wishes for you as well !

    lindon

    July 15, 2008 at 6:26 pm

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