This is a compilation of material from a recent conversation I had with a friend and my own personal knowledge on things.
Let's go back say, to two years ago or so. The three aspects or Paths were very much defined in their own ways. Jedi Knight G was in charge of the Lighties, Darth Moor was heading up the Darkies and Shinobi leading the Shadows. All had their different ways of doing things. Light and Dark were indeed very polar and the Shadows were very much an entity unto themselves and still growing.
The Light Side, under Garren was very defined with "Light Values"; stuff like doing lots of community service and really going out there to help people. There was direction in a sense and almost a guide of sorts to go by. I don't really see that in the current Light Structure, at least not how it used to be. Perhaps it is promoted behind closed doors in the private forums though. At least one would hope it would be.
The Dark Side when it was run by Lord Moor was very specific in direction as I understand. His methods did utilize the anger and hate theme to use the Force and from what I've heard (along with my own variations of its use), it works. When it comes down to it though, in last two incarnations of the Dark Council, the base tenets of Self betterment have been preserved. I won't comment on the current Dark Council because I'm not sure what they are up to.
Now the Shadows have, in my opinion, always been about (at least at its base) nature and balance, mixed with a sort of magic or type of mysticism and Zen. Oh yeah, let us not forget the Force now hehe. They are not the fence sitters most see them as, nor are they Light and Dark combinations. They are unto themselves and a whole aspect, as opposed to being part of two others.
Sauron queried a while back about the differences between each path. There were no real answers given though. Of late the differing aspects or Paths seem to be blending together from things that used to have specific differences to a mish mash of everything combined into one form. Yes, most techniques are interchangeable, but only to an extent. One must remember and understand -why- they are on the path that they are on. One must pledge themselves to it fully, because lets face it, if you are a "Weekend Jedi" only, you really don't have a clue about anything.
The Path differences are important for a person once they find their niche so to speak. It gives them something to Identify with. A place to belong even. Above all methinks, it gives them that starting point to grow from.
So what do I want to discuss here after all that? I want to discuss the Dark. Lately, especially with advent of Episode 2, there seem to be many...misconceptions as to what the Dark is or what it stands for. Due to the fact the Star Wars mythos are the primary source of information, this is understandable to a degree. Also understandable is the fact that Lord Moor used the SW terms and technique (IE: anger & hatred) in his lectures. What few people realize though, is that he wasn't talking out his arse. Though they sound very Sithly, these techniques have a basis in reality. As stated countless times in the past, we deal in reality here, not in the myth that Uncle George created. Not only are Anger and Hate good things to focus on , but a darksider should focus on the whole range of strong emotions. All emotion can fuel you, if you know how to manipulate it. Never leave any stone unturned when exploring what works for you, because that stone you leave untouched may be the one to hold the key to what you want or at least lead you to then next step.
Reality Check. A competent darksider isn't one who goes around in long flowing robes Force choking people when they piss him/her off. Also we are not the puppy-kicker's that others think us as either. We are your business people, your cops, your teachers, your janitors, your politicians, and yes, we are even involved in your church. A darksider is concerned with their Self basically. It's a form of selfishness. Selfishness, mind you, is not a bad thing as society makes it out to be. Being selfish enables you to do the things you want when you want and not care about what anyone else thinks of you for it. Now these things will only be for you to make you happy or to help you on your way to achieving your own personal goals.
Another thing that a darksider is concerned with is power. And not necessarily in the "I'm going to take over the world" fashion either. It's about power over the Self. If you think about it...it's one of the most ultimate powers one can achieve. In essense, I'm conquering the world of me, once that is done, I can either move on, or once conquered, begin to shape it into what I want it to be. My will, will essentially change my reality, and in some sense affect other peoples reality's as well as the common reality we all share. Am I talking something mystical here? No, I'm talking something realistic, by how we control and carry ourselves. Sounds simple in theory, but for some, it will be the one of the hardest things one will ever attempt.
Know Thyself and To Thine own self be true. These two phrases are very important to a Dark Siders training. Knowing yourself inside out, upside down, around and over is essential. You have to learn to see things in a VERY realistic light, not clouded by the programming of society that always says do things this way or do things that way for the good of everyone. You have to learn to do things you want, for yourself. No rationalizing, no excuses, no second guessing. At the end of this, you will in one respect be your own master. Now, you always have, been, but the realization and build up to it is what matters now. One way to this is brutal honesty. This technique will now be your best friend. No running from yourself, no hiding from the things within you that scare you. It's time to knock down the walls within you that cover all of the secret little fears you harbor. It's time to face them all...everything. Not all at once, but one at a time, or whatever is comfortable for you (Do not push yourself though, it gets you nowhere in the long run). Accept them within you, make them a part of who you are...only then, will you be able to overcome them and then to draw strength from them. And then you can move on.
These are the beggining steps, the foundations, of one who is training in the Dark Side.