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Left-Hand and Right-Hand Paths

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Occult and religious paths are sometimes divided into two categories: the left-hand and right-hand paths. The left-hand path is about the elevation and centrality of the self as well as the rejection of religious authority and societal taboos. The left-hand path focuses on the strength and will of the practitioner, downplaying the need for intercession by any high power (although they may believe a higher power exists). Satanism (both LaVeyan and Theistic) and Luciferianism are all considered left-hand paths. Followers of Thelema disagree whether it is a left- or right-hand path.

The right-hand path, in the words of left-hand path follower Vexen Crabtree, "concentrate[s] on the symbols of goodness, of the sun, of herd mentality and submission to god(s) and religious authority." The vast majority of religions are considered part of the right-hand path, from Christianity to Wicca.

Limitation and Bias of Usage

One very large limitation of this terminology is that it is primarily used by followers of the left-hand path. While Satanists commonly describe their path as that of the left-hand, Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Druids and the life do not identify themselves as being of the right-hand path. As such, definitions of the right-hand path tend to be phrased in fairly derogatory terms. In addition, many people described as being of the right-hand path would disagree to varying degrees with the definitions commonly given.

Conversely, those people who do identify themselves as followers of the right-hand path generally describe the left-hand path as a path of evil, maliciousness and danger. In this use, the terms become roughly synonymous with white magic and black magic, two other highly biased terms.

Origin of Term

The terms left-hand and right-hand paths in Western occultism is commonly attributed to Theosophy founder Helena Blavatsky, who borrowed the terms from Eastern practices.

The West has a long history of associating the right with goodness and correctness and the left with inferiority. A person's most trusted adviser is often called his right-hand man. Until recently, left-handed children were often forced to learn how to do things with their right hand, since left-handedness was considered a developmental error. In heraldry, the left side of a shield is known as the sinister side, which is based on the Latin word for "left," which later became associated with evil and maliciousness. The sinister side bears the coat of arms from the bearer's maternal side, reinforcing the secondary importance of women in comparison to men.

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