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

My contemplations on the subject of death led me to read a speculative book on the physics of consciousness. I wrote and delivered a sermon on the subject. Link-To-A-Sermon

Though I don't consider myself a Unitarian Universalist any longer, being a part of the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque proved to be a significant and crucial part of my spiritual journey. The work of Joseph Campbell serves as a bridge between the beliefs I once accepted as a Catholic child and the beliefs that guide me now.
Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2004-10-28 21:01, Ruiz wrote:

... They both suggested that mythic metaphors were preceded by spiritual experiences. One had an experience first and then tried to capture that experience through metaphor.

Well what is that experience?

It's our experience of the mystery of life and existence. We are the whole universe in the sense that the laws of physics and chemistry are so integrated that to alter one law would unravel our present mode of existence.

What is the difference between the oxygen inside and outside our body? What about iron? We really are a piece of earth that just got up and walked away. We are made of the same stuff.

Can one really separate say a beaver from it's environment? It's design is a reflection of it's environment as are we. The forces of nature are always shaping us. Change our environment and change us too.

All of Alan Watts books are about recognizing that we are all that which we read in Physics and Chemistry class.

We are the energy of the universe whose existence though transcendent of our knowledge is immanent everywhere.

We are magical!

oops here comes those metaphors ...
Whooee! Well-expressed, Ruiz - and positively uplifting (which is a sweet compensation to the doom and gloom that too often accompany thoughts on Death).

Campbell often points out that the power of myth lies in the way myth places us in harmony with Nature - both our individual nature, and the Nature of the cosmos. An effective myth is able to effect that "soul alignment."

An example would be Dine' (Navajo) healers, who create an elaborate sandpainting on the ground representing the setting and circumstances of a relevant myth - a living mandala, if you will - then place the one who is sick in the midst of this mythic mandala, and conduct an elaborate ritual - smudging with sage, drumming, chanting, telling the story with the supplicant at the center of the tale.

This has proven effective as far back as tribal memory goes. Youths who had been drafted participated in a similar exercise as they went off to war, and when they returned; the tale rehearsed helped prepare the youths psychologically for war, and helped them readjust to tribal society upon their return

(alas, veterans who were not native americans had no similar way of readjusting - hence the Vietnam post-war syndrome that so many lost young men wrestled with as they struggled to readapt to civilian society)

In one sense, participating in the ritual is participating in a myth (as Campbell points out to Michael Toms in a reference not immediately at hand), so participating in a myth could be thought of as participating in a metaphor

...but what a metaphor, with the power to effect physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual transformation!

If we accept Campbell's description of myth as metaphor, then "the power of myth" could be described as "the power of metaphor" - which is perhaps why Campbell opens The Masks of God, Vol. I: Primitive Mythology with a discussion of something you cover so well in an earlier post, Ruiz - the power of "as if" to render an experience far different from "consensus reality" - and though it does begin with a "just pretend" frame of mind, as in attending a play, the "as if" becomes as real as what had been real before

(which triggers questions as to just what is reality, our individual and collective dance with Maya ... but that's a thought for another thread ... ).

The final volume in the Masks of God series, Creative Mythology, skillfully expands on this concept, dancing with the possibilities of creating - or rather, partnering with Nature or the Cosmos or the Transcendent in the creation of - experienced reality.

When my consciousness shifts from the ego sense of separateness - of there being me in the foreground standing out against the background of Everything Else - to a recognition of no-separation between myself and Other, a sense of myself as an expression of that Cosmic Consciousness, Full Void, Transcendent Mystery or Great Whatever, then the ego-angst dissolves and Death is No More.

Myth offers clues to that experience. Joseph Campbell doesn't provide the experience, but he does present a map and show us how to unearth these clues for ourselves, especially those most important to our individual yet parallel journeys.

The power of myth, indeed ...

blessed be


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

On 2004-10-28 21:01, Ruiz wrote:

or vhhancocks suggestion that metaphor can lose it's force if it's not tied into an experience that truly grounds it in reality;
I should probably clarify my question/suggestion a bit.

When I ask if a metaphor can lose its force because its symbolic value is known, I'm not suggesting that the symbolism is causing this, vs. literal facts, etc.

What I'm wondering is if the *knowledge* of the symbolism causes the metaphor to lose its force.

To take a very skewed example--propaganda. If you're aware of it as a technique for forming opinions, doesn't it work less often?

If a metaphor/myth is understood as elements brought together that create social or spiritual harmony--as opposed to an ingrained, instant response--does that awareness rob the metaphor/myth of its power? If so, is that knowledge worth the loss of the immediate participation in the myth?

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

Hi nights watch, ivor orr, Bodhi Bliss, Robert G, ruffles899, bobby T, Martin, dmc, and vhhancock!

Welcome Cave Bear!

Great post Bodhi Bliss!

The problem we ran into in this thread of discussion was that we tried to sever the phenomenal world from the mystery that goes with it. They go together! Many of us think that the names for God apply only to the mystery behind the phenomenal world when in reality it applies to both the phenomenal world and the transcendent mystery that goes with it. (solar and lunar light together)

If we succeed in quenching conceptual thinking we still see the phenomenal world it's just that it now appears unbroken; it was really one whole ecosystem of interrelationships. It was conceptual thinking that broke it up into parts in the first place. (gives new meaning to the quote by Jesus that "I and the father are one) That whole is shrouded in transcendent mystery so it's no use focusing on the transcendence aspect because there is nothing to find there. It's only the phenomenal aspect that we will ever be able to participate in no matter what spiritual discipline we follow.

Martin, maybe we were reading mythic metaphors wrong. We all thought we had to transcend the phenomenal world into some kind of nothingness or mystery when in fact we just had to transcend conceptual thinking.

We made the same mistake with metaphors too because we severed experience from metaphor. I don't blame vhhancock for feeling that metaphor was starting to feel like pure fancy.

Bodhi Bliss, I agree with you! Once we reconnect experience with metaphor then what you say in your last post makes perfect sense. By reenacting a myth or metaphor and meditating on it's significance we can experience it's power either to an experience of being one with nature or, by focusing on a particular energy system, invoking that power in us such as the energies of war or love.

The warrior rituals you mention appear as a meditation on the energies of nature that give rise to war; how to invoke them and then how to quench them once invoked.

bobby T, you have meditated on the energies that give rise to love and compassion and it shows in your posts. You state:

"the Ultimate state of Being and existence is love and gentle kindness"

You just might be right! The experience of being alive is a blessing! (a rapture!) It's not till later in life when our health fails that we realize that we were riding on transcendent energies that had been taking care of us all the time with what appears like love and gentle kindness.

I'm not totally clear on what you meant in your post regarding the world series but the quenching of conceptual thinking would turn a normal game of baseball into a sublime experience. It's the play of transcendent energies not only in the field of time but also in the field of eternity!

Cave Bear, I'm looking forward to reading your paper inspired by a book on the physics of consciousness! Are you sure the book shouldn't have been about the consciousness of physics? Physics does seem to be conscious at times! :smile:


Hi vhhancock! You beat me to the post. I'm glad you are clarifying your response. Good question.

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

Hello to Everyone!

Nightwatch: thank you for posting such a terrific question/thread. It has inspired so many great reflections: how fortunate for all of us because I think that a result can be seen in the first post by Ruiz:
I'm grateful that I was given life. Even though I know I'll die someday, I always remind myself that I came out of some void that no one understands and will be going back to that same void. All I can do is make the best out of what I do have.

If you think about it the universe is a miracle! What is happening really shouldn't be happening! The fact that it does makes me want to jump up with joy!
Great thoughts. And I think you are quite right: how amazing and fortunate it is for us to be taking a vacation from the Void to enjoy this world of senses. And that is probably the whole point of life: just experience, share, enjoy the time here.

Savasana, a final yoga position, is also known as corpse pose. We rest as if dead, going into deep meditation (once the monkey mind is calmed a bit!), and then re-awaken to feel each muscle, breath, and thought. It's a beautiful thing, and very much in the spirit of your post.

also, your post reminded me of the opening scene to Carl Sagan's "Contact".

Bodhi Bliss, your words are also much appreciated:
Joe points out that "heaven" is not a place "out there," with a tangible, physical existence. Eternal does not mean "forever." Eternal comes from the Latin: e = outside, ternum = time,

so eternity is experienced in a moment outside time, when we shed ego (my experience of me as me, how i perceive myself) and forget ourselves, such as in meditation, sexual union, artistic rapture, shamanic trance, and similar modes
Outside time. What a good reminder of what is really to experience, to benefit from. And this are indeed perfect moments; rapture and pure momentary connection to something more than ourselves.

To be whole in this life, JC suggests we embrace the paradox - identify with the individual, with the frail body and the fragile ego,
These are probably wise words to live by. And what a paradox! We think of the ego being such a fortress of protection, and yet it really is quite a fragile construct. This and Body: so strong and so fragile. The Body and Ego carry us through the physical and time and space: they are mortal, they are amazingly resilient, and they also die. Which brings us back to nightswatch's concern: when the bubble skin bursts, do we (the individual as represented by that which was inside the bubble skin) rejoin with that which was outside the bubble film? Or is it all nothing. Is it paradoxially both? Is existence and consciousness part of the dualistic realm? Without physical form, is consciousness aware of itself? One might think so, since life and bodies were made so well and for the most part practically, purposefully. (and I'm not choosing "c" or "C", but blurring them a bit...)

Robert G. wrote:
wonder if eventually you don't have to accept the metaphor as real in some sense to get the full benefit of it. I mean, to engage all those aspects of your Self which are meant to be energized and directed by the symbol maybe you have to drop the focus from the 'as if' and really give yourself to this thing, whatever it is for you which Ruiz replied:
A myth or metaphor has to finally be accepted as fact to really work!

It kind of reminds me of hypnosis which is based on the suggestions of a hypnotist. Strong suggestions are very like literal facts. [...] Metaphors also operate by way of suggestion so it seems.

In a way metaphors are like the suggestions of a hypnotist. They work if we take the suggestion to heart. (pushing the suggestion to the point of it seeming like fact)

Was Joseph Campbell hypnotised by a metaphor? I know metaphors hypnotise me all the time because there is a part of me that so wishes to believe
Interesting discussion here. Myself, I think that its even simpler than that. Metaphors are the language that brings us closer to describing the Abstract: feeling, experience, emotion, etc. They are perhaps guideposts to navigate an event or rite of passage or experience and so on. I suspect that if we bring them into a much too concrete and literal realm, they will not retain their original magic which must be symbolic. And when the magic works, it will reach us at deeper levels than the intellect. In other words, a mythic story will give us just what we need at that time. We will encode/understand at deeper levels exactly what we need to in that moment. This will change with time and circumstances: the message will deepen or the necessary myth will change. We will know because we will be attracted to either the same message in many places, or else in different motifs when new understanding is required. I also imagine that much of this can be processed at deeper levels than surface accessed knowledge. It goes to the heart and the gut. I imagine that when reading a fairy tale or myth, both Ego and deeper Self both gain from it, but in different ways.

And I like the "as if" angle too...

Martin wrote:
This is indeed a very fruitful conversation about death - and an inspiration to contemplate about it.
Since Einstein we know, that there is no factual room with time and space as constants. Time is dependent on velocity. A photon, a physicist told me at our last roundtable meeting, moves so fast, that from it’s viewpoint the long history of the universe would be just a brief moment. If there’s no body, no subject anymore, does it make sense to speak about time?
It seems to me that there are even smaller subatomic particles that are predicted to arrive at their new location before they have left the previous...
So you might say, that individual consciousness is like a melody in the symphony of life. The melody has a beginning and an ending, but it’s part of a symphony and, more than that, like every tone or melody, a part of the white noise, that is beyond all ears and sound waves
Lovely thoughts...
From a Campbell lecture about Gottfried von Strasburg and the medieval ideal of amor:

[...] And there was a lady in the audience who raised her hand and said "Oh, but that's just a metaphor". And I said, "it’s not a metaphor when you’re having the experience". When you have the experience that’s the best way to talk about it.

Joseph Campbell
So let's try to have the experience - than we can talk about it!
Who ever said eternity and metaphors weren't romantic?! :wink: Seriously, this is a good example of the paradox and confusion and semantic mayhem that Experience -> Metaphor -> Language can cause!

It really is a funny thing: how we try so hard to intellectualize and rationalize and philosophize and wrap our Ego minds around the Soul's experiences, emotions, movement of spirit, senses, moods, colours, sounds, etc., This kind of complete understanding will never happen: but WOW! is it fun to think and chat about. This is why we have so much poetry, painting, literature, and music! The well never runs dry. Once we stop thinking about it and just become present with the feeling of a moment - then we have transcendence....but then we come back to thinking about it because wow...that was really cool...and want to describe and share. How about this one: recall a special first kiss: light headed, time just evaporates, swirling sensation, rapture, surroundings just fall away... but does this really capture the moment? Poetry and music come really close...

What's so great about these moments is that they are heightened by momento mori: back to Ruiz's post: how great to feel and experience, even when words fail. This seems to be a useful function of death: a reminder to live.

Bodhi Bliss wrote:
We are speaking here of great mysteries, and I admit I’m groping in the dark just like everyone else – too...! (nice image, BTW).

There is so much I have not addressed: this post is already far too long winded. But I wanted to express my appreciation for everyone's thoughts on this topic. What life springs from discussion of death.

Bodhi, I'm going to come back to your posts from Oct 26/27...much there to think about also.

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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I'm still wondering about that question I first brought up, about whether or not a metaphor has to be accepted as real in some sense to be fully effective. Along with this, the point that bodhibliss made about the Judeo-Christian myth no longer being effective for most of the people in his immediate circle caught my attention. And yet most people in the West were raised with some variation of that myth.

I've heard Campbell say that it was no use for a Westerner trying to turn yourself into a Buddhist or whatever, but instead to turn back to those images that were put into us as children and find a way to reactivate them. They're still there. For most of us that means Judeo-Christian imagery. In rejecting (often with good and valid reasons!) the institutions that are supposed to represent these myths, I wonder if many of us haven't rendered these images impotent to have their full effect on us. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I'd like to share an experience I had earlier this year that speaks to this, and has changed my life in ways that I am still exploring.

I've been a member of a 12-step recovery program for years, and know from first hand experience the power the spirit (or God or the unknown or whatever you may call it) to effect real change in the world. I was in a meeting where the topic was spiritual living, and I was sharing about what I had been doing recently to increase that part of my life. On Campbell's suggestion I had been looking at great works of art depicting the images that really spoke to me, i.e. the images of Christianity. Now for me, the images of the Nativity, of the Madonna and Child, and of the Crucifixion itself have always been eloquent and easy for me to connect with. I have a real love for children, and it easily becomes an adoration for the divine miracle made manifest there. Compassion for the suffering of Christ becomes contemplation of the mystery of the transcendent coming into the world and accepting the sorrows and pains of life. These are easy ways in for me, but I had been trying to expand my spiritual life by searching for images of Christ with his disciples: God as my friend. Stepping away from adoration and contemplation to find it made manifest more in other people, in my relationships with them. A more human experience of God. And this was having an effect.

After the meeting a woman came up and thanked me for talking about Christianity in a meeting, as that was not something she often heard. (People in recovery are usually very careful about sharing a specific belief in meetings for fear of putting someone off so they won't hear the primary message, that of recovery from addiction.) I of course launched into my spiel about how I did not identify as Christian, how I didn't accept the 'fact' of Jesus as the literal son of God, about how for me it was a mythology, a set of metaphors. My standard disavowal that I have been giving for years. She just stopped me and said "But you are." I was really taken back and kind of stammered something about Campbell and metaphor, and she said "No, you should hear yourself, you are a Christian."

Let me tell you, that just rocked me. It was almost as if a gear that had been missing for years slid gently and perfectly into place, and shifted my whole orientation ever so slightly. It was not a 'lightening bolt' revelation but something so small and simple that I can't explain it. The closest I can come to it is the experience I had when I first walked into a 12-step recovery meeting and, by the time it was over, knew that at last I was home.

For days afterwards I could hear her saying that in my head, until I finally had to say "OK, I don't know what it means exactly but maybe I am a Christian." Since then I have been exploring exactly what that does mean to me, and I have experienced an enlargement and a power in my spiritual life which was practically unknown to me before. It actually feels 'as if' I had unlocked the door to a whole new level of experience, one that I unaware I was missing. And the key was simply acceptance, not of anything new but of what was already right there inside me, just waiting to be noticed. Waiting for me to simply say "Yes" instead of "Yes, but ...."

And so I wonder. As a person in recovery I know about the importance of accepting the truth about ourselves, and of starting out where in truth we really are. And how those things we try to avoid wait, patiently or not so patiently, until we finally must come back to face them. I don't think where I am is the final step in my spiritual growth, I don't think there is a final step, but I think it may very well be a necessary one.

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

In Mexico, they say that you're not really dead until you're forgotten. If Tutankhamun is a dead Pharoah, he'll not be forgotten any time soon, and though we don't know their names, his people seem alive in the pyramids of Egypt.

Though Christ said that his kingdom was not of this world, his memory takes up software space in the real, concrete world of the memory-centers of brains of millions of people. In that sense, the man is not entirely dead and won't be dying any time soon. His living experience of consciousness may be over and done, but the fruits of his thought and work nourish body and soul as we speak. Others may have thought many of the same thoughts, but his name is attached to the words of the bible.

Even if Jesus was not a real man and didn't do a fraction of the wild and crazy miracles attributed to him, the name survives and our imaginations seem to fill in the blanks.
Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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Post by nights watch » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

hello all! This thread has become simply amazing, and i have some that i would like to say but am rather busy at the moment. I just wanted to post quickly to say thank you to everyone for the amazing responses! and also, Robert G. your quote,
"And the key was simply acceptance, not of anything new but of what was already right there inside me, just waiting to be noticed. Waiting for me to simply say "Yes" instead of "Yes, but ...."
brought strongly to mind a quote from the end of the stellar film "Waking Life" (which you should all watch if you havent yet), and here it is:
"actually, there's only one instant, and it's right now, and it's eternity. and it's an instant in which God is posing a question. and that question is basically, you know, do you wanna be one with eternity, do you wanna be in heaven. and we're all thank you, not just yet. and so time is just this constant saying no to God's invitation. i mean, that's what time is. and it's no more 50 AD then it is 2001. you know, i mean it's just this one instant. and that's what we're always in. and this is the narrative of everyone's life. and that behind the phenomenal differences, there is but one story. and that's the story of moving from the no to the yes. all of life is thank you no thank you no thank you and then ultimately its like yes, i give in, yes i accept. yes, i embrace. i mean, that's the journey, i mean everyone gets to be yes in the end, right?"
It is a thought-provoking film and a beautiful image presented in this quote. At any rate, while the fear of death can come and go, the thoughts provided here certainly help to alleviate the fear of it tremendously. There were many fantastic ideas that i will respond to shortly, but sadly midterms are calling my name! Ultimately though, i think the very fact that this thread exists, and we are having this amazing comversation, is proof enough of the utter amazment and beauty that is found everywhere in life, good night all!
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hey there fellow seekers and players

I can't help but join the mutual admiration chorus. This conversation is an example of exactly what the JCF forums were designed to do - and hats off to Bob and David and Manny and Rebecca and our hardworking, overtasked, and poorly compensated moderators for making these forums available.

The exchange of information, the mutual learning that occurs as each shares his/her passion with the other, would do Joseph Campbell proud. Every post i read offers something i did not know, a slightly different twist that adds depth and dimension to what i thought i knew

... and every post inspires me to dig down deep into my own soul, examine my truths and explore how best to express them, as well as providing encouragement and support for further forays into the unknown. Rather than definitive "answers" - in terms of facts and figures - i find what increases is my sense of Wonder and Mystery, which is both question and answer ...

So thank you All, for so many rich ideas and images, too much to chew and digest in just one reading.

It's also fascinating to watch the group mind unfold. Often in this discussion i've noticed something i'd like to explore in greater detail, but haven't the time or energy to address right at the moment - and then someone brings up the same point, but with greater clarity, insight, and detail than i could have managed. Similarly, i find points i planned to bring up but somehow overlooked (easy to do when posting 2800 words at one sitting) re-surfacing in someone else's post.

This is just a hit-and-run message, mainly to express my appreciation - it is so sweet to log on to cyberspace and slip into a near meditative space as i read (rarely happens elsewhere on the web - at least, not most of the places i go, though we have our moments at the JCMG).

I'd like to mention everyone, but i won't. However, i thought i'd toss out to Parzival the possibility that Ruiz's thoughts on interdependence of the spiritual and phenomenal world touch on some of the ideas i'd hoped to interject into the "Self-induced Transformations (context defines)" thread, before it disintegrated - seems his thoughts might provide a bridge for the opposing views expressed in that thread, for we really can't separate the individual from the phenomenal world of body, environment, matter, and energy - or from the world of spirit

(and even if it didn't, i like the way he grounds eternity in the temporal world in which we all participate - again, quoting Campbell quoting Goethe, "Alles Verganglich ist nur ein Gleichnis" - "All that is, is but a metaphor," in one translation

... or how did Blake put it?

"To see the world in a grain of sand ...").

And then Robert, thanks for sharing your Twelve-Step experience. Absolutely incredible! I love the woman's insight (how much more clearly others see us than we see ourselves - something else often learned in 12 Step meetings): despite your protestations, she can see that you are a Christian. Hmm ... you had not accepted the metaphor as real, but the images nevertheless connected - so one could say the metaphor was iindeed working, despite those protestations.

Wow! It's not just a religious exercise, but rather the images fully engaged you - which is how they were intended. Not Christian in dogma or theology or membership in an organization, but in the path that opens for you into the unknown ...

And your remark about taking the metaphor as real brings to mind a comment from The Power of Myth:
MOYERS: A metaphor suggests potential.

CAMPBELL: Yes, but it also suggests the actuality that hides beyond the visible aspect. The metaphor is the mask of God through which eternity is experienced.
I am reminded of another place where Campbell says he has no need of faith - he knows.

(Also, as an aside, though there is no direct connection between the two, the Twelve Steps as outlined in the Big Book in very many ways seem to mirror elements of the Hero's Journey enunciated by Campbell. I guess it's no surprise to learn of Jung's influence on Bill W.'s understanding of the path to sobriety - a path which does involve slaying of dragons, encountering helpers and guides, initiation fostered through self-reflection, the surrender of ego, and the return with a boon to the world - often in the form of twelve-stepping others, for example serving as sponsors, as helper and guide on another's quest. There is much spirituality, power, and healing in the program Bill W. & Dr. Bob pioneered ...)

Keep on stretching my brain, friends!

blessed be


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

This is off on a slight tangent, but i am intrigued to note that we are pre-occupied with Death in the days leading up to Samhain - aka Halloween - or All Soul's Eve. We seem in harmony with the season

... and then there's the realization that today is the seventeenth anniversary of Joseph Campbell's passing.

Death - what a timely topic!

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

I'd be interested in hearing everyone's thoughts on the trappings and rites of Halloween, as well. I've posted some thoughts and questions in the Halloween thread of the "Rites & Initiation" Conversation: ... forum=3&14



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

Because of the weekly Post from "Headquarters"(!!!), I decided to glide through the posts here, again, on Death.
What strikes me about the posts is how cerebral they all are and yet how little they are based on reality.
For Joseph Campbell, mythology and metaphor unlocked many misapprehensions, fundamental thinking,and delusion.
However, to my mind, there can be no working metaphor that satisfies our curiosity about Death, which can never be seen as an ambiguous metaphor. I believe the only approach to, perhaps, grasping the infinity of Death,could be to first start to grasp the infinity of Life.
Campbell, in my reading , speaks very little about the beginnings of life, and certainly not his own. He takes up his story as a student at tertiary level.
What happened before then?
He glosses over his Catholic childhood, but for those who have lived through this formative experience, I find it almost impossible to believe that those influences can ever be completely negated or denied.
I have mentioned in other places in these fora, that I am privileged to be within the time of my Disengagement. It is within these years , that we are able to hear Campbell's own reflections , and join with him as he positions his nearness and poetry of Death ,within his living parameters.
My suggestion is fairly simple , and to many I'm sure, very simplistic.
I believe our separate lives have always been - somewhere - and it's this that makes the whole human being unique.
We have existed before our conception physically, as a consciousness within the Conscious.
We assume a physical being, in the pattern of creation, as a fertilised seed, or as a living congruence of cells.
The development of our particular set of genetic coding continues during our time of nurture. Then we become the nurturers of another consciousness or more, until our moment arrives to pass beyond the physical barrier separating us from the ability to love absolutely - this cage we call "the body".
Only then, are we, as continual living monads , free to love as we are loved - as our growing sense of compassion tells us, that we are so far, embarrassingly deficient.
So, Death, has no sting!
It is but a metamorphosis of being in continuity.
Our very best years are yet to be lived, beyond this mortal veil.
Take heart!!

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

Thank you Bodhi, for your kind re-direction of ideas and thoughts. I greatly appreciate this, and will talk a bit about it later in this post or subsequent post (depending on how longwinded I am!)

To begin, I wanted to back up all the way to a post by Robert G. on october 23 (really, not so long ago...)
Unknown interviewer: What is your anticipation of what happens after death then? Do you have any experience or anticipations?

Campbell: Well now, the whole problem of eternal life … eternity has nothing to do with time. Temporal thinking shuts out the dimension of eternity. And to ask, “Am I going to live after death?” you’re thinking in temporal terms. The dimension of eternity is ‘now’. It’s a dimension of here and now. So I’m not worried about ‘after’ death. I’m worried about getting in touch with those eternal dimensions now.
Cool. This is quite rich with many ideas. Actually, it strikes me as a strange question: will I live after death...and then another question came: why worry? The point, as Joe makes, is to live now because that is all we know we have. His re-framing of the definition "eternal" is revealing: it is outside time: it is now.

Along these lines, I recall reflecting on the topic of death and finality: I was reflecting on people who have come and gone in my life (the song "In My Life" by the Beatles is quite fantastic towards this end...). As the song goes:
there are places I remember,
all my life, though some have changed,
some forever, not for better,
some have gone, and some remain
all these places have their moments
with lovers and friends I still can recall
some are dead and some are living/I know I’ll often stop and think about them
in my life, I loved them all/I love you more...
Many thoughts crossed my mind: it is so strange that people we cared about and are still living can now be absent from our lives. This sometimes feels like a kind of death, a sadness, a non-final finality (if that makes sense).

Which made me think: "This is It". This is the time we have to appreciate those around us, that which we have, our ability to make choices, our ability to taste/feel/hurt, and so on. Some people just move on, some friendships end in silence and no conclusion. Some with a purpose. Some gradually and some harshly.

And so when this life ends, that's it. No more interaction as we currently understand it in temporal and sensual terms. But perhaps that's how it goes... Those moments with those people and events were just that: moments, some stay longer than others. And that was what was meant to be. Is this on the right track? Or is this symptomatic of our increasingly so-called isolationist/alienated existence?

Now, with regard to the issue of Metaphor, which seems to wiggle its way through the thread.

Bodhi Bliss wrote:
The best things cannot be told; the second best things are misunderstood; and the third best are everyday conversation.

Zimmer’s “best things” are mysteries transcendent of all human concepts – that which is beyond conscious and unconscious, beyond light and dark, beyond life and death, beyond being and nonbeing – that which cannot be put into words because it is beyond words.

The “second best things” are misunderstood because they use the “third best” – the language of everyday life – to discuss the “first best,” which is beyond language.

Our conversation here is an example of these second best things – as is the entire body of Campbell’s work – with a tendency toward vagueness and misunderstanding built right into the words, guaranteeing a certain measure of frustration in communication no matter how precise and exact we try to be. These second best things are words with usually concrete references, employed instead as metaphor. Even when we are aware of this usage, it’s hard to overcome linguistic programming and completely ignore the concrete reference – especially when that concrete reference is germane to the metaphorical comparison.
Terrific! Metaphor is just another level of understanding. Perhaps concrete/literal language belongs to the intellect, metaphor belongs to this and the body/experience, and the first and purest level is experience/spirit/soul...and beyond. So perhaps there is something there to address Robert G.'s question:
I'm still wondering about that question I first brought up, about whether or not a metaphor has to be accepted as real in some sense to be fully effective.
I think this is a good question. I wonder what you mean by "accepted as real". Are you looking for literalism? fact? or a feeling? or ?? Can metaphor be experienced at many levels of cognitive awareness and non-awareness?

Perhaps a metaphor is real in the sense that it addresses a non-linguistic aspect of self and experience. In this sense, it is very Real. But if it is to be literal and concrete to be real, then no, I don't think so. Then it would be just a story, or history. (Please forgive if I am following a faulty line of argument in assuming your definition of "real" as synonymous with "literal".) I was reminded the other day about the distinction between scientific approach to Real (that which can be measured and identified) vs the introspective approach to Real (that which is unquantifiable and non-measurable, but undeniable part of our existence). Was is William James who wrote something to the effect that that which is unseen is the most real.

(BTW: along these same lines of what is real and what is the dream; thanks Cliff (?) for the recommendation of Waking Life. Terrific movie!)

Robert G.: thank you for sharing your story - what a great revelation! - to let go of the resistance and embrace that which you resisted (lived with "as if").

Robert, you wrote:
"And the key was simply acceptance, not of anything new but of what was already right there inside me, just waiting to be noticed. Waiting for me to simply say "Yes" instead of "Yes, but ...."
I think this is just brilliant and eloquent. Sometimes this simple step is so hard to get to. Finally letting go of the fight, releasing, and allowing for acceptance.

Vince wrote:
What I'm wondering is if the *knowledge* of the symbolism causes the metaphor to lose its force.

To take a very skewed example--propaganda. If you're aware of it as a technique for forming opinions, doesn't it work less often?

If a metaphor/myth is understood as elements brought together that create social or spiritual harmony--as opposed to an ingrained, instant response--does that awareness rob the metaphor/myth of its power? If so, is that knowledge worth the loss of the immediate participation in the myth?
I don't see propaganda as the same as myth, although your point is well taken that propaganda can "mythologize" a regime, etc.

Understanding a metaphor's symbolism won't destroy its potency: probably because that which is necessary to understand will be that which is understood...then as time passes, and growth of self occurs, more of the metaphor will be revealed, consciously or unconciously. I think that the conscious can understand the metaphor eight ways to sunday, and nothing will is only when the spirit/soul hears the metaphorical song and both it and the conscious/ego put it into action/practice that the potency is realized. The metaphors, understood by ego or not, will still exist and function, but to varying degrees. They are seperate from concrete language, therefore are not subject to it for validation. But when there is the inability to access or understand the metaphor at any level, consicous, unconscious, and so on, does it all fall apart and become useless.

I’m sure that this is longwinded enough! I look forward to reading more thoughtful posts.

Be well.

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Post by Zoom100000 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I am a fine art photographer and my current work is "Of Flesh and Stone" which explores the connections between the sensuous female forms that adorn many of the great cemeteries of the world and the human form that the figures represent.

The images from "Of Flesh and Stone" can be viewed at:

An essay on Flesh and Stone and the use of sensuality and the classic nude figure in memorial art can be viewed at:

"Of Flesh and Stone" explores the conscious and unconscious themes and symbolic content of memorial art. At issue is of course man's struggle with transcendence and his own mortality. As the project progressed, I began to discover many very sensual images of beautiful young women depicted in the memorial art in the cemeteries of Paris, Rome, Milan, Genova and Moscow. Certainly sensuous figures are linked to a long tradition in Western art celebrating the female form in both secular and religious settings. However, very intriguing questions emerged around the significance of this particular art form in the cemetery. How is it that these very powerful images have come to offer solace at times of loss, what is the significance of the link between Thantos and Eros in this very compelling art form?

In myth there are certainly many references to a link between flesh and stone.

"The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Genesis 2:7

Some argue that the sensuous, beautiful young women cast in stone are the embodiment of death itself, the ultimate state of the flesh. The romantic notion "Sweet is death who comes as a lover" removes the sting of death and presents it as an experience to be fully embraced and welcomed.

In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell states that the "Myths of the Great Goddess teach compassion for all living beings. There you come to appreciate the real sanctity of the earth itself, because it is the body of the Goddess. And when you have a Goddess as the creator, it's her own body that is the universe. She is identical with the universe...She is the whole sphere of the life-enclosing heavens." Campbell goes on to state: "This is the essential experience of any mystical realization. You die to your flesh and are born into your spirit. You identify yourself with the consciousness and life of which your body is but the vehicle. You die to the vehicle and become identified in your consciousness with that of which the vehicle is the carrier. That is the God." Within the essential experience of birth and rebirth the female embodies the totality from conception to birth and renewal. As Mother Earth she embodies fertility and rebirth and out of death, the eternal renewal of life. The greater the beauty and perhaps the more sensuous, the more powerful the identity is of "Goddess as Mother Earth."

I have come to believe that the use of beautiful young woman in the cemetery is a celebration or a recognition of the moment of perfect beauty. It is a moment in a moment that is our lives and thus embraces the fraility of the flesh and man's ultimate mortality.

"Your death is always with you and it is the most attractive part of you. When people tell you they love your eyes, Or the way you walk, It is your mortality they're seeing."
Paul Williams

I would appreciate any feedback on "Of Flesh and Stone" I am hoping to publish it as a book.

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

Well, it has been a while, but what a great topic to come back to.

As someone who has dealt with death on a professional level, (as a former paramedic for 22 years) and a personal level, (a liver transplant recipient, transplanted with 6 months to live, 7 years ago) death and what happens after is something I have come face to face with.

I am not going to re-hash what others have already spoken about, suffice to say that Prof. Joe's insights on death, and eternity has given me a new understanding of what I have come face to face with in my own life. I especially enjoyed the "lightbulb story", and have read it on many occassions.

The idea of experiencing enternity as here and now resonates with me more now than it did prior to my transplant. At the time I was transplanted, I was in many ways, prepared to die. While there was always the flood of emotions that accompany such an event, looking back on it now, and having Prof. Joe's writings as a backdrop, I can see that I was experiencing much of what he wrote and talked about regarding death, and what, if anything happens after. (I did not discover Campbell fully until after my transplant.)

The metaphors that
"I have a very good understanding with God. I don't understand him, he doesn't understand me." - George Carlin