Mysticism, Nature

Straighten Up and Fly Right: Jordan Peterson and the Left-hand Path

Maier, Atalanta Fugiens_AF46

Michael Maier, Atalanta Fugiens: Emblemata Nova de Secretis Naturae Chymica, 1618. © Adam McLean 1997-2017 ( Used with permission.

The buzzard told the monkey “You are chokin’ me
“Release your hold, and I will set you free”
The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye
And said “Your story’s so touching but it sounds just like a lie”


Jordan B. Peterson would appreciate this moment of synchronicity. After all, he is well-versed in Jung.

A friend in the northern hemisphere tweeted a video clip of a Peterson interview yesterday on BBC Radio 5. I just happened to see his tweet, five hours later.

In reference to young men, he said:

“They’re desperate for a discussion about responsibility and fair play and noble being and working properly in the world, and to hear the idea that their lives actually matter; that if they straighten themselves up and fly right that they’ll have a beneficial effect on themselves and their family and community, and that the world is starving for that, and for them, as individuals; not for them as a group but for each of them as individuals.”


When I heard those words spoken, my memory instantly flashed to consciousness the 1943 hit song by Nat King Cole:

A buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air
Monkey thought that everything was on the square
The buzzard tried to throw the monkey off his back
But the monkey grabbed his neck and said “Now listen, jack”

Straighten up and fly right
“Straighten up and stay right
“Straighten up and fly right
“Cool down papa, don’t you blow your top
“Ain’t no use in divin’
“What’s the use of jivin’
“Straighten up and fly right
“Cool down papa, don’t you blow your top.”

The buzzard told the monkey “You are chokin’ me
“Release your hold, and I will set you free”
The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye
And said “Your story’s so touching but it sounds just like a lie”

From “Her Lucky Night” 1945


I instantly knew – by intuition, buttressed by knowledge, acquired recently and reviewed only yesterday – what this idiom really means.

It has a profound significance.

I doubt that many today – if any – fully appreciate what these allegorical lyrics mean. Wikipedia provides a helpful hint, by dint of the background story:

The song was based on a black folk tale that Cole’s father had used as a theme for one of his sermons. In the tale, a buzzard takes different animals for a joy ride. When he gets hungry, he throws them off on a dive and eats them for dinner. A monkey who had observed this trick goes for a ride; he wraps his tail around the buzzard’s neck and gives the buzzard a big surprise by nearly choking him to death.

Engraving from I.C.H. Des Hermes Trismegistus, Leipzig, 1782

Engraving from I.C.H. Des Hermes Trismegistus, Leipzig, 1782. © 1997-2017 ( Used with permission.

The phrase “straighten up and fly right” is said to mean:

Fig. to improve one’s behavior or attitude and perform better. (Originally referred to an airplane.)

in. to get serious and start behaving properly.

Clearly this is the context in which Peterson used it.

But there is far more to this allegory. I think it extremely important that we fully understand it:

And therefore, it is wisely said, that the stone is born of the spirit, because it is altogether spiritual. For the vulture himself flying without wings cries upon the top of the mountain, saying, I am the white brought forth from the black, and the red brought forth from the white, the citrine son of the red; I speak the truth and lie not.

Maier, Atalanta Fugiens_AF43

Michael Maier, Atalanta Fugiens: Emblemata Nova de Secretis Naturae Chymica, 1618. © Adam McLean 1997-2017 ( Used with permission.

[F]or the vulture flying in the air without wings, cries out that it might get up upon the mountain, that is upon the waters, upon which the “spiritus albus” or spirit of whiteness is born.

The vulture flying through the air, and the toad creeping upon the ground, are the emblems of our magistery.

– Lapidus, “In Pursuit of Gold”, The Secret Book of Artephius (c. 12th Century)

Last evening – again, just by ‘coincidence’ – I had tweeted a lengthy thread of quotations from a book I am reading, written by a PhD scholar. The author’s preface openly states his purpose:

This book was composed in large measure as a response to the irrational “Satanic scare” of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was written with the intention of reaching a wide readership of thinking individuals capable of understanding the historical and cultural scope of ideas underlying the images of the left-hand path. [..] It should also be noted that the author of this book is not a Satanist, but is a practitioner of the left-hand path based on purely indigenous European models.

Stated more simply, the book is a scholarly defense of Satanist ideology, and so-called “black magic[k]”.

In earlier essays, such as Cheating Females Parts 1 and 2 (here, here), Ode to Debt (18+) (here), and Stags and Unicorns: The Alchemical Root of the Normalisation of Cheating (here), I have demonstrated that the left-hand path philosophy has been deeply embedded in modern western culture. It is increasingly evident – brazenly so – in the decadence, nihilism, and orchestrated chaos of postmodern western culture.

Indeed, the “Satanic” philosophy is literally the driving force of ‘our’ capital-ist,¹ Mammon-worshipping (and thereby enslaved) world. I have shown that it is at the very core of double-entry accounting, ‘modern’ banking, and the creation of our ‘money’ supply in the form of Balance Sheet credebt records, deceitfully rented to us at “interest” (usury, compounding):

..Freud cites overcoming incapacity for work as a major motive for entering a pact with the Devil. [..] A major psychological feature of black magic is that it provides immediate gains without immediate payment. The payment is feared as “really” both deferred and excessive. Thus deferred and excessive payment for immediate gain is characteristically associated with pacts with the Devil. The aversion towards usury, in current times as well as throughout the history of Christianity, is not completely coincidental. For usury is exactly a social expression of the Satanic Pact, immediate gains and excessive deferred payment.²


Engraving from JA Siebmacher, Das guldene Vleiss, Nurnberg 1737

Note hands AND feet: Left = Assets (real wealth), Right = Liabilities (double-entry *book* debt) | J.A. Siebmacher, Das guldene Vleiss (“The Golden Fleece”), Nurnberg, 1737. © Adam McLean 1997-2017 ( Used with permission.

To my repeated assertion that Satanic philosophy is the driving force of modern and (especially) postmodern western capitalist culture, our scholar would appear to agree:

“The existence of the left-hand path is not easily discovered, but once its principles have been uncovered it slowly becomes apparent just how widespread the philosophy is.”

“[T]he basic precepts of the left-hand path have for centuries penetrated far beyond the sphere of magical and occult activity.”

“[M]odern philosophies and political ideologies have fully embraced principles basic and fundamental to the left-hand path, almost all of which have become the accepted norm in the west.”

The true significance of the allegorical sermon by Nat King Cole’s father becomes clear only when we understand the origin and meaning of the left-hand path, versus the right-hand path.

We see then that, rather than “the devil in the detail”, in the lyrics of the song we find the exact opposite: “Le bon Dieu est dans le détail” (“the good God is in the detail”).

I will now present some excerpts from our left-hand path scholar’s book, trusting that your eyes will be opened, and you will see. Note that italicised emphasis is in the original; bold is mine:

The actual origin of the right-hand versus left-hand path terminology itself is rooted in the vocabulary of Indian tantric sects. The two main divisions of these are the dakshinachara, “right-way” and the vamachara, “left-way”. [..] The eventual elaboration of the right-hand/left-hand path distinction is quite complex, but its origins are most probably rooted in the widespread tantric doctrines of a natural flow of universal force through the human body along a left to right line – entering the left, exiting the right. This is mirrored by a cosmic flow of force from the north to the south. When the human being is oriented toward the east this flow pattern is said to be in harmony with the one natural to his body, as his left hand is to the north, his right hand to the south. Here are the roots of the key to the common antinomianism, reversal of patterns, found in left-hand path tantrism. To reverse the left to right pattern, contrary to nature and cosmic law, requires an exercise of the faculty of will. This is an act of rebellion against nature and against divinely ordained cosmic order. [..] In going against this flow, individuals more fully articulate – individuate – themselves within their environments. Independence and freedom are attained and maintained – perhaps even personal immortality is to be gained.

Julius Evola remarks on the distinction between the two paths:

“The creative and productive aspect of the cosmic process is signified by the right hand, by the color white, and by the two goddesses Uma and Gauri… . The second aspect, that of conversion and return (exitus, reditus) is signified by the left hand, by the color black, and by the dark, destructive goddesses Durga and Kali. Thus according to the Mahakala Tantra, when the left and the right hands are in equilibrium we experience samsara, but when the left hand prevails, we find liberation.”

[Burton’s Legal Thesaurus: reditusproceeds, rent, revenue]

Engraving from Benedictus Figulus, Thesaurinella olympica, Hamburg, 1682

Benedictus Figulus, Thesaurinella olympica, 1682. © Adam McLean 1997-2017 ( Used with permission.

Alain Daniélou remarks that the left-hand path corresponds to a “disintegrating tendency” (tamas) which “uses the power of Nature, the passions and instincts of man, to conquer, with their aid, the world of the senses… This way leads directly from the physical to the abstract because … the descending tendency is at both ends of the manifested, [therefore the left-hand path] may utilize even eroticism or drunkenness as a means of spiritual achievement.”

Clearly the left-hand path .. is associated both with the idea of dis-integration (separation) and with the practice of antinomianism  – of “going against the grain” of conventions in order to gain spiritual power.

Here it is quite clear, at least from the masculine perspective,³ that the essence of the vamachara [left-way] is the total transformation of the human initiate into something superhuman or god(dess)-like.

One of the significant differences between the two tantric paths, although both are under aegis of Shiva, is that on the right-hand path the adept always experiences “someone above him,” even at the highest level of realization. However, on the left-hand path the adept “becomes the ultimate sovereign” (chakravartin = world ruler).

Sixth woodcut from Basil Valentine's Azoth

Heinrich Nollius, Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae, 1617. © Adam McLean 1997-2017 ( Used with permission.

It is tempting to expand this essay with details of the antinomian “aberrations” that are practiced on the left-hand path in pursuit of its goal. But to do so would, I think, detract from the importance of the thematic understanding here presented, thanks to Jordan Peterson, a black folk tale, Nat King Cole and his preacher man father, my Twitter friend on the other side of the planet, and what was, for me, a spirit-raising moment of Jungian synchronicity.

If you feel compelled to learn more of the (disturbing) details, then you may wish to read my earlier essays mentioned above. One further quotation from our PhD scholar will be mildly suggestive:

Ultimately, [Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis] de Sade holds that the pursuit of pleasure is the object of human life, and that physical satisfaction is more noble than the merely mental. Happiness depends on the greatest possible extension of pleasure. This is done by enlarging the scope of one’s tastes and fantasies. It is only through wilful imagination that the possibilities for pleasure are extended. Social or religious conditioning prevents this in most cases. Finally, happiness is not so much found in the enjoyment of pleasure as in the desire itself and in the destruction of obstacles in the way of its accomplishment.

For de Sade the greatest pleasures were to be found in overcoming things which may have at one time inspired fear or disgust.

Whether in the sexual or more abstract philosophical sphere, the truest definition of Sadism .. is: “The pleasure felt from the observed modifications on the external world produced by the will of the observer.”

Suffice it to say, the allegory of the trickster buzzard who offers to take you on a jivin’, “fly left” joy ride – one that will “set you free” – is a profoundly cautionary tale:

“It is quite understandable why the forces of orthodox Christianity fought every advance in scientific, political, or religious philosophy, for each advance in spiritual freedom and enforcement of the interests of plurality over unity is indeed a victory for the Prince of Darkness – the principle of isolate intelligence…”

Maier, Atalanta Fugiens_AF12

Michael Maier, Atalanta Fugiens: Emblemata Nova de Secretis Naturae Chymica, 1618. © Adam McLean 1997-2017 ( Used with permission.


“Evil is the conscious attempt to make the conditions of existence more pathological than they have to be, and it’s motivated by conscious intent.”



The buzzard told the monkey “You are chokin’ me
“Release your hold, and I will set you free”
The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye
And said “Your story’s so touching but it sounds just like a lie”


UPDATE 3 Feb 2018:

Recommend reading this article on the gnostic underpinnings of Jordan Peterson’s philosophy. Compare with Cabala’s origins. Readers of my other essays will hopefully recognise the fundamental connections between gnosticism, cabala, and left-hand path philosophies.




Stephen E. Flowers PhD, Lords of the Left-hand Path: A History of Spiritual Dissent

¹ If the reader is tempted to assume that I am opposed to the ideology of capitalism alone, I would say only that there was insufficient time and space to address the subject here. Please consider that I am somewhat widely read on the true origins, intent, and consequences of ‘Marxian’ socio-economic theories; thus my views on what I consider to be an artificial opposition are likely more nuanced than you may have presumed.

² David Bakan, Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition

³ Cheating Females: The Production of Inequality, By Illusions of Equality


I recommend giving thought to this man’s words. But do not watch if you are unable to ignore vulgar, and/or blasphemous language, in the interest of gaining understanding.

“Of course, if I get disassociated from by a domination of empirical science I could be objectified into nihilism but apart from that little hiccup…”

Nature, Time

Babylonian Values: Confusion, By Mixing

בָּבֶל – Bâbel, baw-bel’; from בָּלַל H1101 (bâlal);
confusion (by mixing); Babel* (i.e. Babylon), including Babylonia and the Babylonian empire.

The inversion of values can be traced back to the ancient Semitic empires of Mesopotamia, and the fertility cult worship of Inanna-Ishtar, goddess of Sex and War, the “Queen of Heaven”:

Central to the goddess as paradox is her well-attested psychological and more rarely evidenced physiological androgyny. Inanna-Ishtar is both female and male. Over and over again the texts juxtapose the masculine and feminine traits and behavior of the goddess.1

Her androgyny (also) manifests itself ritually in the transvestism of her cultic personnel. The awesome power of the goddess shows itself in the shattering of the human boundary between the sexes: “She (Ishtar) [changes] the right side (male) into the left side (female), she [changes] the left side into the right side, she [turns] a man into a woman, she [turns] a woman into a man, she ador[ns] a man as a woman, she ador[ns] a woman as a man.”2

The most vivid expressions of the goddess’s innate contradictions appear in the following passage:

To destroy, to build up, to tear up and to settle are yours, Inanna….
To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inanna….
Business, great winning, financial loss, deficit are yours, Inanna….3

Inanna-Ishtar’s cultic celebrations and cultic personnel above all reflect her anomalousness and liminality. She is, one might say, externalized into unordered, carnivalesque celebration that demonstrates a reaching beyond the normal order of things and the breakdown of norms. The goddess’s festivals are institutionalized license. They celebrate and tolerate disorder. They are occasions when social rules are in abeyance and deviance from norms is articulated. Through symbolic inversion they attack the basic categorical differences between male and female, human and animal, young and old.4


“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in them both, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it (…) To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality.”

— George Orwell, defining “doublethink”, 1984


Within a few centuries, the new capitalist spirit challenged the basic Christian ethic: the boundless ego of Sir Gales Overreach and his fellows in the marketplace had no room for charity or love in any of their ancient senses. The capitalist scheme of values in fact transformed five of the seven deadly sins of Christianity – pride, envy, greed, avarice, and lust – into positive social virtues, treating them as necessary incentives to all economic enterprise; while the cardinal virtues, beginning with love and humility, were rejected as ‘bad for business,’ except in the degree that they made the working class more docile and more amenable to cold-blooded exploitation.5

— Lewis Mumford, Myth of the Machine


“Today, many nations are revising their moral values and ethical norms, eroding ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures. Society is now required not only to recognise everyone’s right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil, strange as it seems, concepts that are opposite in meaning. This destruction of traditional values from above not only leads to negative consequences for society, but is also essentially anti-democratic, since it is carried out on the basis of abstract, speculative ideas, contrary to the will of the majority, which does not accept the changes occurring or the proposed revision of values.”

— Vladimir Putin, Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, December 12, 2013


* “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.
And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”


The Life of Bodily and Spiritual Virtue

Pleasures, pains and desires are by nature especially human; and from these, of necessity, every mortal creature is, so to say, suspended and dependent by the strongest cords of influence. Thus one should commend the noblest life, not merely because it is of superior fashion in respect of fair repute, but also because, if a man consents to taste it and not shun it in his youth, it is superior likewise in that which all men covet,—an excess, namely, of joy and a deficiency of pain throughout the whole of life. That this will clearly be the result, if a man tastes of it rightly, will at once be fully evident. But wherein does this “rightness” consist? That is the question which we must now, under the instruction of our Argument, consider; comparing the more pleasant life with the more painful, we must in this wise consider whether this mode is natural to us, and that other mode unnatural. We desire that pleasure should be ours, but pain we neither choose nor desire; and the neutral state we do not desire in place of pleasure, but we do desire it in exchange for pain; and we desire less pain with more pleasure, but we do not desire less pleasure with more pain; and when the two are evenly balanced, we are unable to state any clear preference. Now all these states—in their number, quantity, intensity, equality, and in the opposites thereof—have, or have not, influence on desire, to govern its choice of each. So these things being thus ordered of necessity, we desire that mode of life in which the feelings are many, great, and intense, with those of pleasure predominating, but we do not desire the life in which the feelings of pain predominate; and contrariwise, we do not desire the life in which the feelings are few, small, and gentle, if the painful predominate, but if the pleasurable predominate, we do desire it. Further, we must regard the life in which there is an equal balance of pleasure and pain as we previously regarded the neutral state: we desire the balanced life in so far as it exceeds the painful life in point of what we like, but we do not desire it in so far as it exceeds the pleasant lives in point of the things we dislike. The lives of us men must all be regarded as naturally bound up in these feelings, and what kinds of lives we naturally desire is what we must distinguish; but if we assert that we desire anything else, we only say so through ignorance and inexperience of the lives as they really are. What, then, and how many are the lives in which a man—when he has chosen the desirable and voluntary in preference to the undesirable and the involuntary, and has made it into a private law for himself, by choosing what is at once both congenial and pleasant and most good and noble—may live as happily as man can? Let us pronounce that one of them is the temperate life, one the wise, one the brave, and let us class the healthy life as one; and to these let us oppose four others—the foolish, the cowardly, the licentious, and the diseased. He that knows the temperate life will set it down as gentle in all respects affording mild pleasures and mild pains, moderate appetites and desires void of frenzy; but the licentious life he will set down as violent in all directions, affording both pains and pleasures that are extreme, appetites that are intense and maddening, and desires the most frenzied possible; and whereas in the temperate life the pleasures outweigh the pains, in the licentious life the pains exceed the pleasures in extent, number, and frequency. Whence it necessarily results that the one life must be naturally more pleasant, the other more painful to us; and it is no longer possible for the man who desires a pleasant life voluntarily to live a licentious life, but it is clear by now (if our argument is right) that no man can possibly be licentious voluntarily: it is owing to ignorance or incontinence, or both, that the great bulk of mankind live lives lacking in temperance. Similarly with regard to the diseased life and the healthy life, one must observe that while both have pleasures and pains, the pleasures exceed the pains in health, but the pains the pleasures in disease. Our desire in the choice of lives is not that pain should be in excess, but the life we have judged the more pleasant is that in which pain is exceeded by pleasure. We will assert, then, that since the temperate life has its feelings smaller, fewer and lighter than the licentious life, and the wise life than the foolish, and the brave than the cowardly, and since the one life is superior to the other in pleasure, but inferior in pain, the brave life is victorious over the cowardly and the wise over the foolish; consequently the one set of lives ranks as more pleasant than the other: the temperate, brave, wise, and healthy lives are more pleasant than the cowardly, foolish, licentious and diseased. To sum up, the life of bodily and spiritual virtue, as compared with that of vice, is not only more pleasant, but also exceeds greatly in nobility, rectitude, virtue and good fame, so that it causes the man who lives it to live ever so much more happily than he who lives the opposite life.

— Plato, Laws, Book V (732-734)