My take is that you don't really need to choose one or the other per se but you'll automatically come into alignment with one of them if your focus is strong enough for you to grow more powerful.
The reason people's descriptions are so unreliable is because they're talking about something they don't understand and haven't experimented with, and worse still they're doing it within a new age framework which eschews the most valuable intellectual tools we have for differentiating and defining various phenomena. When everything is "love" or "fear" it's impossible for the conversation not to get muddled because we're working within the confines of pre-formed conclusions.
The left-hand path (darkworking) focuses on individuality, the right hand path (lightworking) focuses on unity. You can't devote equal energy to both and get somewhere. There comes a point where you've devoted enough energy to one that it pours out the other side but trying to consciously focus on the two only leads to contradiction and self-sabotage.
Externally the difference is very subtle and if it's done well it'll look like what you call balance but internally and psychologically the little differences add up and drastically alter your perceptions of self and the world around you.
Do they lead to the same place? I'm calling that assumption into question in my own practice, but certainly the two can work together; they're not inherently enemies, we just live in a world that's turned imbalance into something to be proud of.
It might help to reframe light and dark as male and female. Polarity is actually a very old idea, and while new age websites and literature have (again) stripped it of its historical context and most of its substance you can find allusions to it in every tale of male and female gods mating to create or purify the universe. The reason for people to embody one aspect more strongly than the other is that it's instrumental to the transmutation of our universe as a whole-or so the theory goes.
From a purely practical standpoint, most people will probably lean more strongly one way or the other as they come into their own and live according to their inner guidance. Balance on the large scale doesn't mean each individual needs to be perfectly balanced in themselves, only that they embody what's healthiest for them and most conducive to their growth.
Last edited by Cado; 10-27-2011 at 09:26 PM.