“The famous Pythagorean Y signified the power of choice and was used in the Mysteries as emblematic of the Forking of the Ways. The central step separated into two parts, one branching to the right and the other to the left. The branch to the right was called Divine Wisdom and the one to the left Earthly Wisdom. …The neophyte must then choose whether he will take the left-handed path and, following the dictates of his lower nature, enter upon a span of folly and thoughtlessness …. or whether he will take the right-handed road and … regain union with the immortals in the superior spheres.
“It is probably that Pythagoras obtained his concept of the Y from the Egyptians, who included [it] in certain of their initiatory rituals.” ~Manly P. Hall
I don’t think the Pythagorean Y is as famous today as Mr. Hall indicates, but the idea of the forking of the ways certainly is. Many, however, think of this decision symbol as representing something much simpler like deciding which profession to go into or who to marry. While we make many decision in our lives, only one is the Y. That one decision is whether we want to follow the path of materialism or the path of spirituality. All other decisions are secondary. And I have no doubt that poet Robert Frost was really talking about this in his “The Road Not Taken” where the wise traveler eventually chose the “one less traveled”. The path less traveled is the spiritual path.
Right or Left?
Unfortunately, choosing the correct path is not as simple as it sounds. It is not just choosing right over left. It is not always obvious which is the path less walked. Here are some hints.
- The easy path – This is almost always the wrong path. The only exceptions might be if your father is a spiritual teacher or you were born into a very spiritual family. Then the easy path would be to stick with your family, and it would also be the correct path.
- The popular path – When we are young we often think that if something is popular, it must be good. Just think of restaurants. The places selling the junkiest fast food are often the most popular while the ones selling a healthy and well-prepared meal are less so. Popular doesn’t mean good, and it doesn’t mean correct. This is usually the wrong path.
- The moneyed path – It is always tempting to take the path where one can make the most money. The rampant materialism of the day encourages this. We idolize those who make great sums of money. Sometimes, we make movies about them. We write books about them. But greed is not and never will be a virtue. We do have to make a living in this world, but beyond that, choosing the moneyed path is the wrong choice.
- The moral path – Choosing a path of moral values is a good choice. A path that values people and values life. A path that values fair play and honesty. You can’t go wrong taking that path.
- The environmental path – a path that cares for the environment we all have to live in is generally a good choice. A spiritual person values all life and that means caring for the environment.
That is not a complete list, but it hopefully helps.
If this were as simple as having to make one decision as with the Pythagorean Y, it would not be so difficult. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t the way it works. Taking the right path really means making the right choices on many small paths. Decisions of a lifetime and decisions for a day, they all contribute. Deciding which shirt to wear today may not matter, but deciding which book to read while sitting on the porch might.
Nearly all of us are guilty of making quick decisions without considering the long-term consequences. When our goal is spiritual development, we need to make an effort to always make choices that keep us on that road less traveled, the right fork of that Pythagorean Y.