I would like to begin a discussion of Occult Ethics. This is a difficult subject as it seems almost everyone has an opinion on the nature of Occultism. There is a great deal of discussion about White Magic, Black Magic, The Right Hand and Left Hand paths, almost none of which give any indication as to the origin of these terms, simply arguments concerning their meaning or approach. Therefore I feel that it would be valuable to begin by looking at the teachings concerning creation in the mysteries.
Genesis 1 states: "1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. "
In our tradition this is a reference to the Limitless Light flowing into the universe through what we call the Veil of the Absolute. This can also be thought of as Light flowing into Positive Existence, the creation of SOMETHING as opposed to the vastness of NO-THING. This is based on the Qabalistic Veils. Light flows forth and crystallizes into Kether, the Crown. From there it flows out into all of the other Sepheroth via the "Flaming Sword" or "Lightening Flash". This is the beginning of Creation.
This is not a once-off event, the Light eternally creates and sustains the universe. But just as light flows into creation to congeal into matter, so did human consciousness descend into creation.
We will begin by using Key 10 in order to visualize the path of evolution.
In the beginning the vibratory energy of the Human Group Soul descended into manifestation. On the card we see this descent on the Left Hand side of the wheel. During this time humanity was a single consciousness (represented in Genesis by the term HaAdam (The Human). In Qabalistic writing the male represents Selfconsciousness and the female Subconsciousness. Thus The Woman is the generic Subconsciousness of HaAdam, The Human. Not until she is given a name do they have any individual awareness of self.
So it is that the creature representing this descent into matter is a basic creature, a serpent, who also has many other attributions. For it is also the Serpent which guided the Subconscious to create an individual identity which it then passed on to self consciousness. In this way humanity became individual.
This Biblical reference is not an endorsement of a specific religious tradition, but rather a tool for explaining something by referring to something with which most people are familiar. It does, in fact, fit the teachings of the Mysteries regardless of what interpretations have been applied to it otherwise.
The self-conscious humanity, at this point very primitive, began to develop individual thoughts and individual souls. This separation into separate, conscious individuals represents the point at which we reached the bottom of our devolution. At this point we stopped devolving and began the "Path of Return" whereby we will one day return to the Veil and pass beyond.
From this point we began to develop communities, civilizations and religion. For a long time we saw the universe as filled with frightening things and our consciousness was so gross that the only ways to be aware of those entities beyond our physical senses relied on barbaric practices including human and animal sacrifice. It is easy for us to condemn our ancestors today but thousands of years of spiritual evolution has occurred since and, at the time, this was necessary for manifestation of the Gods. Drugs were also part of the more primitive religions as the people using them had not yet evolved enough to make contact without them.
Today we can be aware of advanced entities simply by burning vegetable sacrifices (incense) and working with higher vibratory rates than our predecessors. As we move forward we begin to realize that we are not truly separate entities but individual expressions of a unified whole, separate personalities tied to a collective subconscious. We are the Humanubis rising up the Right Hand side of the wheel towards the infinite.
You will notice, though, that the Humanubis has not yet shed all of his animal heritage. Nor has he risen very far up the Path of Return. His length encompasses the history of our evolution from the very basic near animals who first gained self awareness up to the tips of his ears which just rise above the 90 degree mark (representing those few Adepti who push ahead on the path). Most people are somewhere near the 100 to 110 degree mark.
This is the basis of the terms Right Hand Path and Left Hand Path. The Right Hand Path strives towards the spiritual evolution of humanity. We are climbing the mountain towards true realization and understanding of the Limitless Light. The Left Hand Path rejects the concepts of unity and indulges the individual. Often this devolves further into self-worship and self-aggrandizement. It embraces the illusion of Matter and works against the spiritual evolution of humanity.
The difference is that one seeks the truth of our relationship with the Divine, our connection to the Force, the Life-Power, LVX. The other embraces the lie of separation, feeds on fear and gives in to the animal hind-brain.
In Key 6 we see Self-Consciousness (Man) looking to Sub-Consciousness (Woman) who is now a clear channel to Super-Consciousness represented by the Archangel Raphael who, in turn, is the conduit of the Life-Power represented by a golden sun. In Key 15, however, this conduit is broken and the world seems dark, vile, hopeless. The people in the picture are part animal for they have embraced their base natures rather than seeking to refine themselves into a more perfect reflection of the Life-Power.
The Adepts of our tradition term Evil "that which retards the spiritual evolution of humanity." It is not hard to see how the one who seeks to aid in the union of the Spirit and the betterment of mankind as a whole is different from the one who seeks personal glory and is willing to step on others in order to achieve their selfish desires. On the Right we move towards Understanding, The Light and Union, on the Left we move towards Ignorance and Darkness and Separation. This also gives the names of "White" magic (moving towards the Light) and "Black" magic (moving away from the Light). Though the "magic" part is the same "substance" or "Force" which is manipulated in each, it is the intention which defines it as evolutionary or devolutionary, Good or Evil.
Hopefully this helps to illustrate the basis of Occult Ethics and the roots of its terminology.