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Karma and Sin
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Mental Illness in the Pagan Community
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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Dark Ethics: Shining A Light On The Left-Hand Path
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Age Group: Adult
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Posted: August 20th. 2006
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(Note: The following is a possible interpretation of Left-Hand spirituality. As with any religion, spirituality, or way of life, variations do occur. In no way am I saying the following is the only way to walk the Left-Hand Path; to do so would be the antithesis of Dark Paganism.)
Those on the Left-Hand Path often are shunned at the local Pagan gatherings. People do not readily approach us with a hearty “Merry Meet” as they do with those on the Right-Hand Path. True, some Dark Pagans (I am using the terms “Dark Paganism” and “Left-Hand Path” interchangeably; except for some semantics, there appears to be little difference; others are entitled to their differing opinion) can be seen dressed in the cliché Goth fashion, sporting all-black attire and punk-style hair. I can understand the natural resistance to approach such people. Even I often am reluctant to make acquaintances with such people. Still, even if you do not stand out in the aforementioned way (I personally wear a suit and tie almost every day), when people know you are a Left-Hander, there is still the tendency for them to treat you like a leper. Why is this so?
To put it simply, people are often afraid of Dark Pagans.
Why should that be? For a lot of Darksiders, the idea of karmic debt is not entertained. I do not adhere to the idea of some Cosmic Consciousness giving me my “just desserts.” It does not fit into my theological paradigm, nor has it been my experience that this is so. Without the fear of karmic retribution, those who are not Dark Pagans are wont to say that there is nothing keeping Darksiders from committing harmful actions. So why do we not?
While Darksiders do not generally accept the idea of karmic debt, we do believe in the consequences of our actions. Do I believe that if I steal a car that my “karmic debt” will cause some series of penalties to occur to me? No; but I do believe that there is a good chance of getting caught and convicted. While karmic debt does not keep me from grand larceny, the prospect of prison does.
Grand larceny is an extreme, though. A lot of little crimes could be committed that would not necessarily land me behind bars. Habitual gossiping, slandering, petty theft, and obscene hand gestures are all actions that generally result in no legal consequence. Why not do these things?
The answer to that question comes down to one word: harmony. No matter how one’s spirituality is practiced, most people want to live their life without being harmed by another. Left-Handers are no exception. If I habitually gossip about people, my word will sooner or later be seen as less than solid. What if I need to borrow money from someone and they have only my word that I'll pay them back? Worse yet, what if my gossiping results in gossip about me? Gossip that jeopardizes my quality of life? I do not see this result as karmic debt, but rather a direct result of my mundane actions bringing about mundane results, and these are not results that I like.
Small-time stealing can be gotten away with, but only for a while. Steal enough times and you will get caught. Plus, a lot of small items can equate to a large amount of money, which puts us right back into the category of grand larceny and prison time. Even if you do not get caught, people will view you as a thief, and thieves are viewed as people to be avoided. Sure, you might end up with a lot of stuff, but your social life becomes nonexistent.
Obscene hand gestures? Like most people, pain hurts me. Give people such gestures long enough, and you'll eventually find yourself with a fist in your face.
To put it succinctly, Dark Pagans do not do things to others because we do not want something done to us in retaliation. Of course, that is not to say that Dark Pagans are without ethics or morals. On the contrary, Left-Handers are quite often some of the most ethical people you could find. We desire to live the life we most desire and find infringing on another's right to do the same a gross hypocrisy that cannot be tolerated.
Even if the idea of karmic debt were accepted, karmic debt is no guarantee that a person will act in a way considered ethical or acceptable to society. The idea of karmic debt is that good deeds receive rewards, while evil deeds receive punishment. The idea of good and evil, however, is subjective. How many times have we heard of abortion clinics being bombed because they were seen as places of evil deeds? How many times have we heard the bombers proclaim they were doing the “right” thing? Such people believe that their actions will be rewarded, regardless of the immediate consequences. All moral objections aside, I do not bomb abortion clinics because I would surely find myself in jail. As a Darksider, I understand that any actions I take to bring disharmony to another could result in the disharmony of my own life.
For those on the Left-Hand Path, our own happiness and gratification lies at the heart of our spirituality. Given this, we know that the actions of others can either add or take away from what we desire. We also understand that our own actions bring about consequences, whether great or small, and we take responsibility for them. Therefore, the Darksider understands that to harm another can result in one’s own harm, and all other reasons not withstanding, this understanding keeps us from running amok. Not only that, but we on the Left-Hand Path hold our own being in such high regard that to wreak havoc on the happiness of another who is doing no harm is considered an intolerable hypocrisy.
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