Recently there has been a great deal of talk about another Chief in another Golden Dawn Order involved in promoting an event where Satanic Magic was preformed. I am not sure yet of all the details, but it certainly does not seem like something Mathers would have participated in. It is an indication of a serious problem and a confusion of the path. None the less, here is a short article of the right and left hand path and Golden Dawn Theurgy.
Many magicians are aware of the fact that there are two Paths of Golden Dawn Ceremonial magic): the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. However, there are few who have sought to provide a meaningful definition of what these two paths are. This lack of a proper definition has led to a variety of conflicting views as to what systems of magic are apart of which path and which systems can harmoniously be combined with others. In addition, other unfortunately erroneous views arise in this state, such as the mistaken idea that one can walk both Paths simultaneously or that somehow that such an attempt is equivalent to walking the Middle Pillar of the Tree of Life. It should be noted, that although we are all exhorted, as theurgists, to walk the path of the Middle Pillar, such means that we equilibrate our nature so that it is not overly severe or weakly merciful, but rather perfectly in balance between mercy and severity, intellect and intuition, knowledge and practice, scientific skepticism and faith. On the other hand, the Path of Theurgy we follow (whether right or left) is fundamentally a moral stance that we take and a direction we head. One could no more walk both paths simultaneously as one could walk in opposite directions at the same time. However, the Path of the Middle Pillar is one that seekers of both Paths can and ultimately must adhere to in order to achieve their version of self-mastery.
From the standpoint of this treatise: the Traditions of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn, Rosicrucian’s, Martinism and Masonry are all examples of the Right Hand path of Theurgy, whereas examples of the Left Hand Path include at its highest points Thelema and Chaos Magick and at its lower points Satanism and Satanism. It is understood and assumed that these groupings will be insulting to the majority of Thelemites. However, if the reader is patient and reads through the definitions and logic provided, he or she will find that it is not a matter of denigration, but of commonality of certain principles that are held in common with their own group and fundamentally antagonistic to those of the other Path.
PRINCIPLES HELD IN COMMON
Both paths have several points in common although their definition and application of those points may differ drastically. Some of the points they have in common are:
1. That every being has a purpose for being here called “The True Will”, and that to accomplish it brings about the greatest success and happiness a person can attain. The discovery of this True Will and its accomplishment is called “The Great Work”.
2. That every human being has a higher part of themselves which is the only thing that can assist them in completing the Great Work.
3. That the purpose of spirituality and magic is to access this higher part.
PRINCIPLES HELD IN OPPOSITION
The underlying philosophy and outlook of the Right-Hand Path includes the following concepts:
1. That there is one all-powerful Supreme Creator that is concerned with and involved in macrocosmic (universal) as well as microcosmic (individual) matters.
2. That the best use of an individual’s efforts and faculties are to serve in conformity with the Will of this Supreme Creator.
3. That as all things which are above are reflected in all things which are below, so do symbols not only partake of an individual’s interior psychology and conditioning, but that they also partake in macrocosmic truths outside of human influence, conditioning or psychology. Therefore, symbols have universal, defined meanings that are not created nor influenced by man, but rather by Divine sources given to man. The influence on the meaning of a symbol from an individual’s psychology and conditioning arises only from the microcosmic veil that is interposed between the symbol and the person.
4. That by the same reasoning as number 3, there is also a universal, defined sense of right and wrong, good and evil outside of human psychology, conditioning, and cultural/social concerns.
5. That one of the most important directions an individual’s efforts and study must take is in comprehending the true macrocosmic meaning of symbols and the correct sense of right and wrong, and from there to conform one’s mind and heart to the application of the fruits borne of that comprehension.
6. That several of these values mentioned above include:
a. Living simply and peacefully
b. Respect of authority, hierarchy, and law
c. Purity (i.e. balanced and mature self-restraint in matters of sexuality, extremes of behavior and partaking of substances such as mind-altering drugs and alcohol)
e. Service to a higher good and each other
f. Devotion to the Supreme Creator
7. That Vows must be obeyed in order to progress spiritually.
8. That the power that fuels the only kind of magic worth doing is Divine in nature.
9. That the price of spiritual progress, perfect peace, happiness and the greatest blessing for yourself and all those you effect is self-sacrifice.
10. That faith and religious devotion must be coupled with the science of occultism for the highest and most rapid attainment of spiritual illumination and success in the Great Work.
The underlying philosophy and outlook of the Left-Hand Path include the following concepts:
1. That the concept and existence of a Supreme Creator is a matter of individual belief rather than macrocosmic fact and it does not matter in terms of spiritual work if there exists a Creator or not, what form it takes, if their are many gods or just one, or if such a being takes any note of the activities of His creation.
2. That there is no best use of an individual’s efforts and faculties. Whether it is placed in the service of a deity, one’s fellow man, or one’s own self makes no difference in terms of success in the Great Work.
3. That the definition and use of symbols is entirely a result of human creation, collective unconscious and individual psychology. That it doesn’t matter what symbols one uses for what purposes. All that matters is how one feels about that symbol and if that feeling is appropriate to one’s efforts.
4. That by the same reasoning as number 3, there is also no universal, defined sense of right and wrong, good and evil outside of human psychology, conditioning, and cultural/social concerns.
5. That one of the most important directions an individual’s efforts and study must take is in comprehending one’s own chosen meaning for symbols and one’s own individual sense of right and wrong.
6. That the follow activities are not only acceptable but are often encouraged:
b. Living riotously
c. Rebellion against authority, hierarchy, and law
d. The use of sex and mind-altering drugs in magic and spiritual efforts
e. The discounting out of hand of mainstream religious beliefs based on one’s perceptions of its adherents (hypocritically judging them for inconsistencies that they themselves have and express as a result of being human)
7. That Vows may be disobeyed if one feels inclined to dispense with them and that no consequences will karmically result. Further, that there is not necessarily a karmic or cause-and-effect reaction in terms of the goodness or evil demonstrated in one’s behavior.
8. That it is helpful and effective for an individual’s progress in the Great Work to extensively employ the energies and companionship of terrestrial and infernal sources as one’s foundation of magical power.
9. That the virtues of self-sacrifice, selflessness, obedience, humility, and simplicity are not necessary in the accomplishment of the Great Work, but are at best, helpful to some but not to all, and at worst were rather placed in our world and minds to make us slaves and to make us easier to control and manipulate.
10. That faith and religious devotion have little to no relationship with the attainment of spiritual illumination and success in the Great Work.
A FINAL POINT
As it can be seen above, the concept of following both the Right and Left Hand Paths simultaneously is put to rest. In the very conception of the idea and the attempt, one would be aligning themselves with the Left Hand Path alone, as such is the only Path of the two that would accept such an approach or even consider it possible. It should also be noted, that only adherents of the Left Hand Path will argue that one should or could even try.
Keep in mind that these are definitions born of the study and practice of both of these paths at different times in many of contributors’ lives and reflect a large sampling of the teachings and people pursuing those paths, both representative and exceptional. Even so, it is still possible to find many holes in the above definitions as well as notable exceptions to the rule. And, certainly, many left-hand and right-hand path systems will not fit every point in the above definitions completely, but they will characterize and exemplify most of them if not in theory, then certainly in actual practice and fruits over a large sampling. Certainly, there are enormous exceptions when it comes to individuals, and experiences of individuals, but as an overarching whole the definitions and system assignments given above hold.