“One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.”
— Joseph Campbell
What connection does Prometheus have to the left-hand path? In Greek mythology, Prometheus (whose name means “the one with foreknowledge”) had a reputation of being something of a trickster, one with a strong rebellious nature. His role was to stir up the existing order and not to bolster the power of Zeus, but to question it. In his book, “Lords of the Left-Hand Path” by Stephen Flowers, he states, “In the history of the kind of thought we are calling left-hand path in the West, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of the myth of Prometheus.”
To get an idea of the nature of Prometheus, we need to go back to the Greek myths themselves. The Titan Prometheus was one of the ringleaders in the battle between the Titans and the Olympian gods, led by Zeus. The goal was to gain control of the heavens. Prometheus switched sides, though, and supported the victorious Olympians when the Titans would not follow his advice to use trickery in the battle.
Eventually Prometheus was given the task by Zeus to create Man. He shaped Man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure. Prometheus had assigned his brother Epimetheus (whose name means “afterthought”) the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, and wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to Man Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left. So Prometheus decided to make Man stand upright as the gods did and, feeling sorry for Man’s weak and naked state, Prometheus raided the workshop of Hephaistos and Athena on Mt. Olympus and stole fire.
Partially with revenge in mind, Zeus sent Epimetheus a gift of the first woman, Pandora, who like Eve was blamed for causing all the evils humanity has had to suffer. Along with the curious woman, Zeus sent a closed box, telling Epimetheus it was not to be opened. Naturally Epimetheus gave the box to Pandora and, out of curiosity, she opened it. Out flew all the evils and plagues of the world: sorrow, disease, pestilence, war, etc. The only thing that remained in the box was hope.
Zeus, still angry with Prometheus for the theft of fire, sent his servants, Force and Violence, to seize the Titan and take him to the Caucasus Mountains where he would be chained to a rock with unbreakable adamanite chains. Here he was tormented by a giant eagle tearing at his liver. To add to the torment, the liver re-grew every night and the eagle returned each day to perpetually torture Prometheus.
But Zeus gave Prometheus a chance out of this predicament if he met two conditions. The first was that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus, and the second was that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him. Eventually, Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him and Heracles killed the eagle and unbound him.
Because of certain rebellious qualities, Prometheus has similarities to the Christian interpertation of Satan. In the book, “Lucifer and Prometheus” by R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, it is argued that the Satan of John Milton’s Paradise Lost is a strangely appealing character because of the attributes he shares with Prometheus. The book also points out the essential ambiguity of Prometheus and his dual Christ-like/Satanic nature as developed in the Christian tradition. Werblowsky also uses the terminology of Carl Jung in examining “mythological projections of the human psyche”, though he emphasizes that he is not interested in the concept of the archetype in the strict Jungian sense. Rather, he sees the myth of figures such as Satan and Prometheus as expressing “the shortcomings … of the world as conceived by the human soul.”
The myth of Prometheus is not simply a tale explaining how humans received the essential tool called fire, it instead metaphorically relates how we came upon that divine gift, that quality of the gods called intellect. The left-hand path is the individual’s quest to achieve divine power, or self-deification. And needed to journey this path is our own personal light. Without that gift from Prometheus we would be nothing more than beasts, naked on a path of ignorance, searching, crawling blindly toward any distant light.