The Temple of Set considers itself today's leading religious and philosophical initiatory organization of the left hand path.
The Temple of Set was founded in 1975 by Michael Aquino and other members of the Church of Satan, who left that organization because of disagreements with Anton LaVey concerning administration and philosophy. The Temple has grown in many directions since the schism, and is now very different from the organization it left.
The Temple of Set is a philosophical organization. Its activities revolve around the philosophies represented by the ancient Egyptian principle of Xeper (roughly translated as "self-improvement" or "self-creation", with alternate spellings of Khepher. Kefer, and other variations), and the ideals represented by their modern understanding of Set, once called a god by the ancient Egyptians.
The Temple of Set is an initiatory organization, dedicated to the growth and development of its members. Setians recognize several levels or degrees of initiation, and identify their members by their degree. This helps the members recognize and work with their relative peers. It also helps the less experienced members identify the more senior initiates when they have difficult questions with which they need help.
The Temple of Set is a religion, incorporated in and recognized as a religion by the state of California and the federal government of the U.S.A. Its priesthood represents not only the Temple and its organization, but they also represent the being they call Set. The Temple of Set is an unusual religion in several ways:
- It has no permanent building or church, believing that each of its members can follow the religion on their own, wherever they happen to be.
- They do not "worship" Set (or anything else) as most religions would use that word, nor do they worship any god as conventional religions use that terms. Set, whose name likely has the ultimate meaning of "Initiation," causes change in the Universe by the simple fact of his Being. In seeking self-change and betterment, each member puts into motion those changes in the world that are Set's Work in the world of mankind. A Setian's bond with Set is one of self-interest. As a religion Setians believe in Set and work with Set, but do so more as if he were a father, elder brother, or close friend, rather than a god as defined by most religions. (Whether they call him a god or not depends upon their individual views and definitions of just what a "god" is.)
- The Temple of Set does not require religious belief of its junior members. The philosophy of Xeper and the process of initiation are more important to them than the religion.
The term "left hand path" suggests a philosophical orientation which feels that the individual is extremely important. The individual initiate pursuing Xeper is more important than the society in general, any peer group, and any organization (including even the Temple of Set itself). Responsible individualism and freedom are goals to which the organization lends its energies.