The Left-Hand Path
If you google the “Monomyth” or the “Hero’s Journey” you will find no end of diagrams representing Joseph Campbell’s structure of life, death, and rebirth. Here’s a little inside information — if the steps of the diagram don’t move right to left, whoever made it might not know their Campbell.
When Campbell created his Monomyth, he had steps go in a counter-clockwise direction. He even described this movement as “The Left Hand Path,” (not to be confused with satanism or the occult). See, in Western society, left to right, clockwise, is the flow of information. We read left to right. We tell time left to right. Status bars on online videos go left to right. Our culture, largely, moves left to right.
So, for Campbell to have the flow of information in the Monomyth move right to left was significant. It implied the movement of the hero is a movement against culture; not antagonism, not enmity, but a decision to go one’s own way. To zig as society zags.
Culture is largely concerned with the status quo; institutionalized sameness. Because of this, culture rarely knows when things are going wrong until it’s too late. That’s why the Hero is so important. The Hero’s job is to strike off, in his own direction, recover a fix for what’s gone wrong, then take it back to the tribe. In the Monomyth, this fix is called “the magical boon” and can be imagined as an elixir or balm — something to cure what’s ailing society and set it right again.
So, to do the work of discovering your own story, your purpose, you will need to be prepared to go your own way. It’s likely the crowd will mock you. It’s likely your friends and family may try and talk you out of it, but to truly uncover your purpose, you must be willing to endure their contempt or being misunderstood.
Take Buddha. A young prince named Gautama Sakyamuni was prophesied to either become a world emperor or a Buddha. His father, wanting him to be a might ruler more than he wanted him to be a spiritual teacher, took great pains to make sure he never encountered age, death, sickness, or monkhood — the life he was shown was a life of comfort and ease, which his father assumed would push him in the direction he wanted him to go. But the Gods had other plans and worked to frustrate Buddha’s father, peppering his path with old men, dead bodies, and monks, all of which turned Gautama’s mind toward humanity and spirituality and away from ruling. The Buddha’s own father opposed his mission in life and for the reason that he loved the Buddha and wanted what he imagined best for him. It may be the same with you. People who love you and imagine themselves to have your best interest at heart may oppose your true path.
You must also realize why you’re doing this in the first place — One doesn’t discover their purpose in order to retire happily to a mountain retreat. The work of uncovering your story isn’t your final work. Once you figure out why you’re here, what your healing elixir is, you get to work using it to set the world right. If your plan for your gifts is solely getting rich (you might), indulging your own narcissism (not recommended), or turning your back on the world (good luck with that..), you will be misusing your powers. Your story is a story of rebirth — a rebirth into service. Rebirth back into the tribe. Rebirth as a healer.
Any other story just isn’t worth telling.