What is meant by the left hand path?

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

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wstevewent
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Post by wstevewent » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I've heard this term used and have some vague idea of what it means. Please enlighten me. Is it similar to the the via negativa?


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Post by Liminal » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2003-05-22 20:58, wstevewent wrote:
I've heard this term used and have some vague idea of what it means. Please enlighten me. Is it similar to the the via negativa?
The "left-hand path" in general is a reference to the esoteric practices of Western "occult" groups in recent centuries. More specifically, it is often used to refer to the fact that these practices are considered dark or evil by mainstream society ("black magic" and the like). Some better-known examples of "left-hand path" groups are the Golden Dawn, Thelema, the Temple of Set, and the Church of Satan.

It's worth noting as an aside that while many "left-hand path" groups have been labeled (or even label themselves) as "satanism", to date I have not encountered a single esoteric group that follows or even believes in the literal Judeo-Christian figure of Satan.

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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Actually, the term 'left-hand path' comes from Tantric yoga. It refers to the path to transcendence through ecstacy--the path that takes one outside of the sphere of the social compact, into the realm of transcendence.

I believe that the 'left hand' part is due to the idea in Indian metaphysics (and ancient Western metaphysics, too, by the way) that assigns the left side to the female. If you look at the discussions of kundalini yoga in Myths of Light or several of Campbell's other works, you'll find that the central path up which the kundalini rises has two 'tributaries' or side branches--the right hand channel is masculine while the left hand channel is feminine. Now, in Indian thought, unlike Western thought, the feminine energy is thought to be the positive energy for transformation, while the male energy is considered to be passive. In Western thought, the feminine is the yielding principle. If you look at traditional paintings of Adam and Eve, she's almost always on the left, with the serpent whispering in her left ear. Left in Latin is "sinistra" so, since Satan attacked humanity from the left-hand, female side, left=sinister=evil....

Anyway, before I rattle on too much, the point is that Campbell used the term 'left-hand path' in the Tantric sense, to describe the mythologies that told of journeys beyond the confines of the social structure--hero journeys that transformed the hero and, upon the hero's return, transformed the society that she/he/they returned to. It is the path that takes one outside the rules and ethics of the local society, into the universal realm of personal transcendence. He used the phrase 'night sea journey' in a similar fashion. (Now, if anyone knows what the specific reference of 'night sea journey' is, I'd love to hear it. I've assumed it comes from one of the classical epics, but I can't find the reference....)

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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Liminal, I didn't know about these darker features of the left-hand path. What I know is that it is used as an item for the more individual and non-traditional paths in Indian spirituality.

I remember that Tree Hugger had a perfect definition, but I couldn't find it yet.
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks, David! That's what I was remembering (but not in detail).


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Post by Liminal » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Ah, my apologies! I've had a long-time fascination with "occult" groups and that was the only place I had found reference to "the left-hand path". It does not surprise me to find that they co-opted the phrase, as they generally co-opted most all of their beliefs from one place or another.

Thank you for the correction! :smile:

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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Nothing new under the sun, eh?

In "The Waste Land" somewhere (sorry, I don't have a copy handy), TS Eliot described modern culture as a 'moraine,' like the pile of rock shards at the end of glacial valley after the ice retreats. We all pick up the little bits and pieces and try to make sense out of them.

As for stealing, well, when it comes to myth there's no such thing, is there? It seems as if questions of originality are irrelevant (cf. the Old Testament and Zoroastrian scripture)--the question is whether a particular myth has power in the moment.

BTW, this seems like a terrific question that belongs in the Call to Adventure thread. If no one objects, I'm going to move it there in the next few days.
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Post by SkiaOura » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Liminal,

I know quite a lot of members in the Golden Dawn, OTO, etc. Not one of them would say that they are following the left-hand-path.
There are other organizations though, like Temple of Set (as I think you mentioned) and Dragon Rouge (www.dragonrouge.net) who would say that they are following it. Their goals are quite different though.
I think that most people in the occult who say they are left-hand-path, would claim that their goal is the chrystalization of the individuality or self, as opposed to the "annihilation in God" goal of the right-hand-path. I think that these concepts are pretty artificial, and that the goal of every functional mystic tradition is really the same.

My opinion is that most people in the occult have read very little about the indian concepts of the left-hand-path and its origin, and unfortunately they don't care either.

Also, left-hand-path occultists frequently do rituals for gods like Set, Anubis, etc, while right-hand-path do that as well, but balance it out with rituals for less destructive gods like Osiris, Isis, and so on.
The idea in most serious right-hand-path groups is that the whole LUX formula - life, death, rebirth, in a mystical sense - need to be realized in an individual. Left-hand-path groups focus only on the death part.

I hope this is of interest.

SkiaOura.

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Post by Felicity » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Left is also the feminine side - which is why it has become to mean something darker, or evil - now that we're in a more definitely patriarchal age. Wedding ring on the left hand, on the finger that was thought to contain a vein from the heart - so that the woman's love or loyalty would be contained by the ring - it used to be that only women wore the ring.

Left-handed people have long had a bad reputation - reason why left-handed children were forced to write with their right hands - my sister being one of them, in the fifties. A la gauche - in French is to the left - and gauche means awkward, there are all sorts of examples.
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Post by Fin » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Campbell also discusses the Left Hand Way in the fourth valume of the Masks of God in the chapter, "Phoenix Fire".
'The left-hand path is the way, then, of a passage by way of the senses-the eyes, the heart and spontaneity of the body-to a realization and manifestation "at the still point of the turning world," in act and experience on earth, of the radience, harmony, bounty, and joy of nature at the summit of Mount Helicon, where the lyre of Apollo sounds, the Graces dance in tripody, and the golden rose unfolds.'
The left hand path in this sense is spontaneous, intuitive and deviant much like a trickster. It is the path of the artist as Campbell concieved the artist - the path of James Joyce, TS Eliot, Salvador Dali, Gustav Mahler, which is why he deals with it in Creative Mythology.
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Post by Darwin » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I'm glad that this thread has been revived. I'm also glad that SkiaOura pointed out the fallacy of branding all western mysticism "left hand path." This is like branding all Catholic priests "sodomites."
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Post by Poncho » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

If you choose the left hand path out of the safety and warmth of the Village Compound, you are then faced with many side turnings, some on the right and some on the left.

If for instance on that journey out of the Compound you become interested in the Occult you may choose White Magic (Wicca, Order of the Golden Dawn), which I suppose would be one of the right hand turnings. Alternatively, you may be drawn to Black Magic and Alistair Crowley, which I guess would be one of the turnings to the left. To the folks back home in the Village Compound and to the tabloid press (if you have the misfortune of being famous), however, you're "A Witch!" and to them, irrespective of whether it's white or black magic, you're on the left hand path. You're sinister; you're trouble.

I seem to remember reading a story somewhere about a former Director of the CIA, J Edgar Hoover, who was in charge during the McCarthy communist 'witchhunts' in the 1950s. Apparently, Hoover's driver was under strict instructions never to take a left hand turn.

I presume that Hoover never came to England. We drive on the left all the time: "those damn Limey Pinko's!!"

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Post by Dave Spiro » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2003-09-19 10:26, Felicity wrote:

"Left-handed people have long had a bad reputation"
Hmm....this explains why I always had people staring at me in high school. And here I thought it was my lack of fashion sense....:grin:


- "reason why left-handed children were forced to write with their right hands - my sister being one of them, in the fifties."
[/quote]

I am the only lefty in my family, and my grandmother tried to get my mother to do that to me. My grandmother was old style Eastern European Jewish, so old wives tales died hard with her.......







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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Well, it turns out Hoover (who was head of the FBI, the federal cops, rather than the CIA, the spy-types--kind of like the SAS on the one hand and MI-5 and MI-6, on the other, if I remember it all correctly) liked to wear dresses in private, so he was a bit of a fruitcake. (Not that wearing a dress necessarilly makes a man a fruitcake. I'm a big fan of Eddie Izzard. But when you are as homely and homophobic as J. Edgar was, it proves a lack of fashion sense and self-loathing that borders on the lunatic.)
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Post by Glimmer » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Actually, the term 'left-hand path' comes from Tantric yoga. It refers to the path to transcendence through ecstacy--the path that takes one outside of the sphere of the social compact, into the realm of transcendence
I agree, and after watching Joseph Campbell, my interpretation of the 'Left hand path' would be a path of self-discovery. Rather than accepting the beliefs of the personae system imposed by the culture, a person goes through a period of self discovery, which Campbell calls 'The Hero's Journey'.

Raised as a christian and forced into a very narrow personae system by religion, I was taught the world was a fallen place and that the end was always near. Now I realize I was forced to conform to narrow minded thinking by people that still believe outdated monotheistic desert religions are all the rage. I'm sure the mythologies were valid for their time period, but like Campbell says their myth's aren't working anymore.

Once I broke free from these pessimistic myth's that I was taught, I began to search for answers in higher places. Campbell's teachings have helped me to see that the world is not a fallen place, but an eternal wonder that has not a beginning or an end.

I've not only begun a period of reaffirmation of my existance, but I see life completely different now in a more positive light. Maybe some would call this the 'Left hand path'; but I think of it as an awakening, or maybe I'm just misinterpreting...






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