Friday, October 2, 2009

LHP & RHP


Mystically speaking there are two ways of working - the Right hand path and the left hand path. By RHP and LHP I do not mean this nonsense about being an isolate intelligence vs seeking oblivion by re-absorption into the pleroma or some crap like that. That is a false choice.

No, by RHP and LHP I simply mean how you deal with the passions of the mind: lust, anger, pride, lust (did I say that twice?). As they manifest normally, these things are an obstacle to realization. They keep one embroiled squarely in the material consensual reality.

The right hand path treats these poisons as most people would treat a poison - you avoid it, and warn others to do the same. This is the path of the majority of mystics in both the east and the west.

The left hand path treats the poison as a doctor might: they alchemically indulge the passions and use them as the path itself. This path is exemplified in the east in the many Tantric sects, and has appeared in the west at various times as well. The Carprocratians are an ancient example, Thelema would be a modern one.

Though 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, there is no reason to slight the people on the other side. Both are valid choices.

In the east there are many examples of Ngakpas and Tantric Yogis whose students became monks, and vice versa. There are many examples of friendships between teachers of these two approaches.

The RHP is slower, but safer. It is easier to maintain your ideas of purity and purify yourself by them. Society in general will look kindly on your efforts. Even if you remain a lay person and engage in acts of intoxication and lust - as most people do - at least you are not treating them as sacred. That is just a bot to much for most people.

The LHP is faster, but way more dangerous. Each of the passions has an immense amount of energy behind it - which is increased to such a size that is bigger than the ego that gave birth to them. You see the inherent purity of all existence. The problem is when you blow those passions up to cosmic proportions it is easy to blow your neurosis up as well. I was reminded of this this morning listening to the story about Elizabeth Smart's testimony. Her captor clearly had some kind of LHP trip, and indeed her testimony about his theology was eerily similar to the Carpocratians - that you needed to experience every low type of human experience to eventually experience the high's. The thing is that no one should ever be forced to undergo those things against their will. In fact, it completely defeats the point.

People on the LHP that cannot see the validity of the RHP would do well to keep this in mind. Clearly a lot of people that walk the RHP have a lot of ideas about Good and Evil tied to these concepts, but that doesn't mean that you should as well. Just because your path involves sex magick and religious intoxication and the indulgence of the passions - this doesnt make it a good choice for everyone. Indeed its a terrible choice for most.

17 comments:

Frater Resurgere said...

Thank you for this post. It eerily came at just the right time for me and was something I very much needed to read.

Christian Mysticism is very much a big deal in my path, and I've been studying Thelema lately because it is a subject worth understanding, and because Crowley was an occultist worth respecting.

Needless to say, though, aspects of the LHP really just don't sit right with me. I don't judge it, per se, I just can't stand by certain aspects of it. Considering I am by my very nature an addict and an alcoholic who experienced a spiritual transfortmation and am now alive to tell about it, it irks me to consider taking a life of over indulgence in the Great Work. It just doesn't add up to me.

I've been wanting to become involved with a group or an Order, and OTO seems to be one of my only local options. But by virtue of Thelema itself, I feel that it is not possible for me.

And that's okay. Thanks for the post.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

A very interesting post -- on a very interesting topic. However, I am unconvinced that the LHP/RHP dichotomy is anything more than a cover story that allows practitioners to avoid the annoyance of having to explain things to people who will never understand.

Apuleius

Jason Miller, said...

Apuleius,

Please explain further.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Well, I guess I'm assuming that LHP and RHP mostly serves to distinguish techniques that are socially/conventionally acceptable from those that aren't. Take, for example, (a) doing zazen alone in a cave, versus (b) dropping acid (or some other entheogen). Both are simply different kinds of "upaya". Both are highly effective. Both also have great potential for abuse and misuse. Those who practice zazen (or any kind of meditation discipline) seriously must work closely with a teacher in order to avoid "zen sickness" (a fancy way of saying "becoming an obnoxious a*&hole").

But from the standpoint of societal conventions, taking drugs is LHP and doing meditation is RHP. Why? The distinction is largely arbitrary -- as can be seen if one looks at the many societies in which the use of entheogens is completely normal and conventional -- and, therefore, in those societies it is RHP.

Sex and drugs are dangerous. So is any kind of serious spiritual practice that really does anything - including just doing zazen or vipassana or dzogchen in your living room. It's like the old saying "Black Magic is anything that actually works".

I realize that you defined LHP and RHP in terms of the "passions". But I don't really think that's how the distinction is made in practice. LHP and RHP refer to different techniques. And that distinction, in my opinion, only reflects social conventions, not any inherent difference in the techniques.

In her (extremely cool) book "LSD, Spirituality, and the Creative Process" Marlene Dobkin de Rios' argues (especially in chapters 6, 7 and 8) that entheogens can only be properly understood as spiritual tools if they are placed alongside other spiritual tools -- especially those that also amount to sensory and/or physiological manipulation, what Anthony Wallace has called "Physiological exercises". de Rios and Wallace don't include meditation itself as that kind of manipulation, but he does include sensory deprivation, fasting, sleep deprivation, and "mortification of the flesh" -- and all of those are part of the standard bag of tricks for many serious meditators.

Here's a link to that book:
http://tinyurl.com/yc3693u

Apuleius

Jastiv said...

I don't think of it as socially acceptable to not get out of bed anymore once you have eliminated your passions. That is when I decided that the right hand path was not for me.

Qabalier said...

I agree with the first poster - quite a timely entry.

I was thinking about how that would apply to your course, if at all (since it's focused on practical magic, rather than mysticism)

Frater Resurgere said...

"I don't think of it as socially acceptable to not get out of bed anymore once you have eliminated your passions."

What does that mean? I don't understand.

As for the relationship between various meditation disciplines and dropping Acid, I understand that various entheogens can be used effectively for meditative purposes, but I can't agree that they are entirely equivalent. Dropping Acid involves ingesting a potentially harmful synthetic chemical into your body and basically sidestepping the Work you would otherwise do to achieve an alternate state of consciousness.

I don't understand at all how a meditative technique devoid of the use of synthetic chemicals is equivalent to taking said chemicals.

Are the effects nearly the same or very similar? I'm sure -- and for that reason I believe both methods are basically valid, but there is a difference between taking that hit and not taking that hit.

If I were to take Acid or another substance for meditative purposes as opposed to doing my best to achieve an alternate state of consciousness, it would leave me scarred by the experience because my mind just can't appreciate drugs the way, perhaps, your mind does. Meditation doesn't send me spiraling into binging and addiction, but taking substances does. How are they the same, then?

Apuleius Platonicus said...

First of all, and to be very precise, the source that I cited did not equate meditation, by itself, with entheogens. But it did place entheogens together in the same category as other "physiological exercises" such as fasting, sleep and sensory deprivation, and so forth.

To be even more specific, the comparison that I made was between dropping acid and meditating in a cave. The cave part is very important.

However, even if we leave the cave out of it, serious meditation practice entails, at least, daily practice over a period of many years, during which time one will also engage in more extended retreats as often as possible. Anyone who does this will at least occasionally have some pretty trippy experiences. If not ur doin it wrong.

Even more serious meditators will add in fasting, sleep and sensory deprivation (sitting for days in dark cave), as well as use of mantras and chanting. That kind of thing is extremely common among practitioners of Zen meditation (although perhaps not for newbies).

If you don't eat for two days, get only 4 hours of sleep for two night in a row, spend all day either in silent meditation or doing energetic chanting, the effect is quite powerful and definitely should be placed in the same category as dropping acid.

Apuleius

k. sequoia said...

I'm responding off the cuff here, because I read this days ago now and am responding more to comments and to lingering thoughts.

I don't regard a LHP to necessarily have to include hallucinogenics per se, but then I am someone who had dabbled in them, and addictive drugs in general for years leading up to my entering into a LHP path Trad (Feri).I can look back and see the soul sickness I was attempting to address with glaring blind-spots.

Some people in my tradition still will use drugs to induce various levels of reality, however I'm someone that found 'real' life more bizarre than any drug I tried. My drug of choice was being present. Still is. Life is a major, big-ass trip for me overall, so the drugs aren't necessary anymore.

But I'm glad that I have experienced them as it gives me a more thorough perspective. It can be argued -- even for LHPs -- that drugs can be used as a crutch. I would rather be able to reach levels of ecstasy and altered states without drugs, and have found some of these experiences to far surpass those that I had with say, LSD. This is not how it must be for all, of course, but how it was for myself; and I think it depends on the practitioner, their desires for overall experience and ultimate outcome.

I enjoyed this post as usual, though I am intrigued by the angle that seems to warn LHPers to not be so ready to judge RHPers. Where I live, I've been amazed to see the level of judgment and downright disgust leveled from the pagan community at those who choose a LHP. YMMV. But then, I've always seen the RHP as valid, simply not for me... I agree that a LHP most certainly is not for everyone (!)

Kim Sequoia
redhandferi.blogspot.com

k. sequoia said...

"If you don't eat for two days, get only 4 hours of sleep for two night in a row, spend all day either in silent meditation or doing energetic chanting, the effect is quite powerful and definitely should be placed in the same category as dropping acid.

Apuleius"

Absolutely! Well said. And further my point that one does not 'need' drugs to induce these altered states.

Kim Sequoia

Prenna said...

"Absolutely! Well said. And further my point that one does not 'need' drugs to induce these altered states.

Kim Sequoia"

This comment seems to contain the presupposition that drugs are inherently less moral or credible than other techniques. One who uses drugs may well say the opposite, that one does not 'need' meditation (or any other technique) to induce altered states.

Rufus Opus said...

LHP, RHP... Let these two asses be set to grind corn.

Blackarrow said...

"As for the relationship between various meditation disciplines and dropping Acid, I understand that various entheogens can be used effectively for meditative purposes, but I can't agree that they are entirely equivalent. Dropping Acid involves ingesting a potentially harmful synthetic chemical into your body and basically sidestepping the Work you would otherwise do to achieve an alternate state of consciousness." (Frater Resurgere)

It seems to me that this is a very important point to make. The Work itself leading up to the altered consciousness and "experience" seems to be to be very important to one's development. Doing the Work requires discipline, and allows time for the practitioner to be attuned to the energies he or she will be working with. Using a drug to sidestep that Work, and perhaps as importantly, that time, could catapult a seeker into a situation that he or she is not prepared to deal with.

I suppose it is a bit of a cliche, but isn't it true that the journey is as important as the destination? Taking drugs to attempt a jump to that destination only cheats the aspirant from parts of that journey. And frankly, he or she may not even achieve the destination sought, through such methods.

k. sequoia said...

Prenna said:

"This comment seems to contain the presupposition that drugs are inherently less moral or credible than other techniques. One who uses drugs may well say the opposite, that one does not 'need' meditation (or any other technique) to induce altered states."

How could what I have said possibly presuppose that drug use is inherently less moral or credible? This may be your own bias reading into my comment, perhaps?

One may certainly, on the other side, claim that they don't need meditation to reach these states, but if they have not tried, they would not know.

I made my comment based on the fact that I have done both, and *for myself* I see the ways that drug use served to actually inhibit me from reaching even higher states of awareness. Please refer to my other commentary:

"But I'm glad that I have experienced them as it gives me a more thorough perspective. It can be argued -- even for LHPs -- that drugs can be used as a crutch. I would rather be able to reach levels of ecstasy and altered states without drugs, and have found some of these experiences to far surpass those that I had with say, LSD. This is not how it must be for all, of course, but how it was for myself; and I think it depends on the practitioner, their desires for overall experience and ultimate outcome."

Many blessings,
Kim Sequoia

Jow said...

So.. many replies.. go off for a wedding and BAM a great post with a bajillion replies!

Most posts on LHP tend to either degenerate into discussions about either sex or drugs, this time, it's drugs.

Chemicals help disrupt the function of our "lower mind". The part of the mind that we've grown to help us survive as physical meat slabs on this spinny blue green ball. If one wants any sort of trancendental experience on purpose, one has to get past that selfish animal mind.

Different substances have different effects, and not all are good for the same purpose, as they tend to bring out different latent passions in a person. No matter what passions are enflame, being proficient in basic meditation will only help, as you will have the insight and will to move by your own power, and will have a chance against the current of the trip if things get choppy.

Even from a LHP perspective, yoking and integrating those passions can be done without chemicals, useing nothing but mind training, or music, or drama, and it would all still fit the definition of LHP, because you are using them instead of strangling them till they die and fall off.

Any substance that induces an altered state serves to stoke and feed an already existing fire, rather than be the fire itself.

Their use is by nature highly personal, and the morality of the question, I think is entirely dependant on the results of the experiment.

One would do well to have an very experienced minder/guru figure if your going to delve head first into the entheogens trip.

"Acid is not for every brain - only
the healthy, happy, wholesome, hopeful, humorous, high-velocity should seek these experiences. This elitism is totally self-determined. Unless you are self-confident, self-directed, self-selected, please abstain." -Tim Leary

Frater Resurgere said...

"If you don't eat for two days, get only 4 hours of sleep for two night in a row, spend all day either in silent meditation or doing energetic chanting, the effect is quite powerful and definitely should be placed in the same category as dropping acid."

I agree and I understand what you're saying. I only differ because I am a recovering addict who cannot appreciate drugs for these purposes, not because I disagree with their use by others.

See... When I think of any type of drug, I've naturally got a different mindset. If I start ingesting *any* type of mind altering substance regardless of my intentions, I will inevitable stop advancing, stop Working, stop searching. It turns me into a useless person.

Basically, I could safely deprive myself of sleep, fast, meditate, and chant myself into a trippy stupor without any danger to my lifestyle, sobriety, or Work. (And without the risk of Acid gathering in my spine, so they say..)

I could not however keep on the path while ingesting substances to do the same.

If you can, more power to you! I dearly wish I had the self control for that type of experimentation.

Frater G said...

The danger with the RHP is just as great, the tendency to spiritual pride. The ego can get totally wrapped up in the duality of pure versus non-pure, which is basically the issue with all the "old aeon" paths. Crowley identifies Christianity with the LHP, as the issue of spiritual pride can be so bad that the ego can wall itself up against the rest of creation, a tower of spiritual pride.