Myth Thinking and Politics

Do you have a conversation topic that doesn't seem to fit any of the other conversations? Here is where we discuss ANYTHING about Joseph Campbell, comparative mythology, and more!

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Joe the Dragon
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Post by Joe the Dragon » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi all,

This thread is a spin-off from the Drums of War thread. Mostly formulated from the exchanges I participated in around page 72. Clemsy was talking about posting a similar thread, and he may still... but I felt like posting this one now.

I was speaking with a friend of my about spiritual awakening in the Democratic party in relation to this article: http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1104-01.htm . She explained to me that while it may be useful to have intelligent spirituality in either party, the bottom line is that in the end it must come from the individuals, not the political leadership if the world is going to change on any large scale.

It is my thought that as disheartening as this recent election was, there may be a shining jewel of hope buried beneath the surface.

The individuals are coming to a deeper realization. Most of the press now is stating that Bush won for ideological reasons. I don't think the Republicans won on any particular political issue, but rather because people were wanting leadership that acknowledged their hunger for spirituality. And so they chose the conservative, fundamentalist Christian Right simply because that was their only other option. The Democrats tried to traipse Kerry around to different churches, and show that he was a good Catholic, but it didn’t seem to work. Hasn’t the Democratic stance has generally been "oh no! Religion is scary!"

People are SO spiritually awake that they would rather have an extremist, than somebody who doesn't validate their spiritual tendencies at all. And to me, that’s where the optimism is. The people are awake and wanting, it is actually happening... it only looks terrible on the surface because the only way they can get
public policy to acknowledge that they are awake is to vote for someone like George Dubya.

But my hunch, as inspired by the Drums of War thread pages 71 and 72, is that if the people are presented with a candidate that acknowledges and embraces their spiritual hunger, and directs it in a more intelligent, mature fashion... they will gobble it right up!

So here is what I think would be worth discussing here:

What does it mean to have a public figure acknowledge that people are spiritually awake?
How can he/she do this without playing denominational favorites?
THAT will prove to be a very hard line to walk, but I think if the works of Joseph Campbell have shown us anything, it is that walking that line is very possible, and they even suggest that it is the one true thing that absolutely must be done.

Obviously this leader must perfect a language that can be equally meaningful on a fundamental level to all denominations. What might this language involve? What advice can Joseph Campbell and his colleagues give us for formulating this language?

The people are awake, that’s what this election has shown us, they just need
a politician to acknowledge it. In my eyes, something amazing has happened. Good myth thinking has become good politics! And I think that should be big news on these forums.

Tell me what you think.

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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Joe the Dragon on 2004-11-06 01:20 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Joe the Dragon on 2004-11-06 01:22 ]</font>
aecleo
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Post by aecleo » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Having a leader acknowledge that people are spiritually awake seems easy compared to your second question, about how not to play favorites when doing so.

Politics and religion are two topics that go to the core of our beings. Religion, using Campbell's definition, has these functions: mystical, cosmological, sociological, and psychological. Politics is a major part of the sociological function - maintaining moral order.

So, according to this definition, anybody who is religious, will be biased towards their particular moral order. However, I think a qualifier should be added:

EVANGELISM! Personally, I think this is the most insidious action of religion. It undermines entire cultures under a shroud of goodness. It is far worse than killing individuals. It kills all of the ancestors who became the individuals and all of the decendents that the individuals will become.

The evangelists BELIEVE that they are doing right. The evangelizees often don't have enough clarity to make a good decision.

I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical protestant (non-denominational) family. I was disciplined with a heavy hand and denied nicer things that my parents got ("You're only a kid.") while watching my parents give large sums of money to the church and missionaries.

The current political situation in the states is like growing up all over again.

But my family had some well-hidden secrets (strict religions tend to shoot their wounded, so instead of getting help for problems, they hide them) come to light, and my mother eventually took her own life.

I can't help but think that the American government might suffer the same fate.

And the outcome? My father is a softer, gentler man who has decided to respect me, even though I am vocally not in agreement with him.

And so, I believe that things can only get so far out of order before they break. And I think America may well be on its way.

But then comes the rebirth.

And wouldn't that be spectacular to see?
Joe the Dragon
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Post by Joe the Dragon » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

And so, I believe that things can only get so far out of order before they break. And I think America may well be on its way.

But then comes the rebirth.

And wouldn't that be spectacular to see?

It is precisely that rebirth that i think this thread is trying to address. What are its details, how can it come into being.

It will happen either way, but the hero who hears the call and ventures into the forest on his own volition tends to fair much better, as far as bodily integrity is concerned,than the hero who is dragged kicking and screaming the whole way.
benb
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Post by benb » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hey Joe and aecleo,

I’m not sure I agree with you that people’s spiritual hunger lead them to elect George Bush for a second term (although I’ll continue to consider it in hopes of convincing myself because it would be great if it were true). I also disagree with the reasons put forth by the mainstream media that the election was won over ideological reasons. I also disagree with the left’s argument over the last week that the American people are stupid, backward and hopelessly conservative. I think that the Democrats lost because they tried to “out-Bush” Bush—that is, appeal to conservative swing voters instead of their own “base”. By allowing Republicans to set the tone of the debate and refusing to challenge the axioms of the neo-conservative agenda—example: challenge the “war on terror” itself, not argue over who could carry it out most effectively—the Democrats legitimized those ideas at every turn and in doing so let Bush off the hook instead of exposing the deceit, hypocrisy, intolerance and brutality of his administration. The important thing to realize is that this was no tactical mistake. It has to do with the Democratic Party and what it stands for. The Democratic Party is not the “party of the people” and it never has been. It, like the Republicans, represents a tiny elite at the top of our society which funds both political parties—you guessed it, Corporate America. The realization that the Democrats are a dead weight in the struggle for social change is the first step toward trying to build a better future…and Joe, your friend is absolutely right when she stated that change has to come from us, and not politicians.

Now, the question of how to bring this about…

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by the “break” of America and then a “rebirth”…but if you’re talking about doing away with the current way of organizing society based on hierarchy, competition, individualism, greed, power and control, and dismantling our very harmful way of life, then myself and the great majority of the world are on your side!

The question is—how can this happen?

The change must come as all conscious change throughout history has—in the form of a mass popular social movement. A counterforce based on unity and love must develop against the power-separatists of the current dominant culture.

To quote Bodhi_Bliss from another post who quotes Campbell who quotes Hans Heinrich Schaeder:
They (counter forces within a culture) are released when doubts arise (generally among the governed, but occasionally, also, in circles of the ruling class) conducing to a criticism of the power principle. And this criticism may develop to the radical point of the complete renunciation of power, generating then the idea and realization of an order of life based of brotherly love and mutual aid.

What we need is nothing less than a spiritual transformation in the masses. We need a spiritual revolution. Nothing profound, but it occurs to me that people are going to have to care about each other and dispense with mindless nationalism if we are ever going to create a peaceful and sustainable future together.

This brings to mind Campbell’s call for a new myth—one based on the realization of oneness and the unity of the global human family which he comments on in the first chapter of POM. In my opinion, this is what is needed more than anything today and could indeed play a crucial role transforming people’s consciousness. Our modern mythologies in this culture are not only failing in all four basic mythological functions, but they are actually pernicious and insidious in instances—as in evangelicalism which aecleo pointed out.

The people are not spiritually hungry, they are starving. A new mythology could potentially have profound effects on how humans relate to each other and the Earth. Or maybe not. Perhaps I’m hopelessly naïve and idealistic.

Also, Aecleo wrote:
“Politics and religion are two topics that go to the core of our beings. Religion, using Campbell's definition, has these functions: mystical, cosmological, sociological, and psychological. Politics is a major part of the sociological function - maintaining moral order.”

Ahh, politics and religion, my two passions…and ironically the two topics that are supposed to be avoided at the dinner table! Haha. No wonder I feel so alienated in this culture…

Ben

"So when a man venerates a deity, thinking, 'He is one, and I am another', he does not understand." -Brhadaranyaka Upanisad
Fin
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Post by Fin » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This is one issue where it becomes useful to analyse social movements from the perspective that society is a system. Modern conservative Christian movement is part of a global rise in religious fundementalism. It is only truely conservative in the sense that it is reactionary. But I don't think it is really a spiritual movement. It is part of a broader cultural movement, where people are turned off by MTV culture and the complexities of the rapidly changing, globalizing society. The rise of evangelical Christianity is a manifestation a deeper cultural discomfort. It is just as political as it is spiritual. If you listen to their radio shows, when atheists are mentioned they are associated with socialists.
I think a distinction should be made between spirituality and religion. Jung said, "Religion is a system to defend us against the experience of God." and this is a perfect example. In my view, God broadly refers to true spirituality in all its forms.
True spirituality is more open-minded and curious than this political-religious social movement. They don't seek spirituality. They seek hope in easy answers. The easy answers part is the key because in reality it reflects pessimism. These people know that if they go to serious thinkers or serious observers they will be given answers that they won't be comfortable with or are depressing or are too complicated.
"It is not the road ahead that wears you out – It is the grain of sand in your shoe." Arabian proverb
Robert G.
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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I think a distinction should be made between spirituality and religion. Jung said, "Religion is a system to defend us against the experience of God." and this is a perfect example. In my view, God broadly refers to true spirituality in all its forms. True spirituality is more open-minded and curious than this political-religious social movement. They don't seek spirituality. They seek hope in easy answers.
Whatever the myth for the future turns out to be, I think this too is one of the views that will have to be jettisoned, at least in part. Hidden (or actually explicit) in this statement is that same old idea that our side knows what "true" spirituality is, and anyone who disagrees is simply wrong, or worse, somehow unable to face what we know to be true so therefore opts for the "simple answers", the poor simpletons.

In my view what's missing here is a recognition that someone can have read all of Campbell's (and others) works, and still believe in a personal God as a transcendent being. Not out of ignorance, stupidity or fear (those motives we love to attribute to those that don't agree with us) but because they find reasons that are satisfying to them. A great many monotheists reject the notion that God is a symbol knowingly and explicitly, fully aware of the contrasting positions.

Again, in my view any convictions about the nature of God are equally matters of faith. So what I think we need in the future is a something that truly teaches how to live as one society that contains many many faiths. Unless we want to eliminate by force those that disagree with us, that is the way we have to go. I personally believe that the core of this will be based on the Western idea of respect for the individual. Perhaps a myth that truly teaches live and let live, the Golden Rule, that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights? That we are responsible beings with the power of choice? That morals are mores, not cosmic laws? Some blend of Christ, Kant, Jefferson and Jung?

Of course, what I think is the great thing right now is that I am perfectly free in this country to live as if that was my myth any time I want to start to do so. So I do, to the best of my ability. What seems to be a side effect of this for me is that I'm not very interested in the spiritual lives of public figures ( or essentially, people I don't personally know), and I'm pretty skeptical about those who want to bring that aspect of their lives into the political process. Campbell said that politics is fundamentally about winning and losing, about competition, not the spirit. If people are searching for a guru, maybe politics is the wrong arena?
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Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

benb,

Excellent post! I see a "US Break" coming also. The only thing that can be seen as a credible "break" in the US is an economic one. Bush has planted more than the required seeds for that. With more labor and now intellectual capital being outsourced, with wars creating huge deficits, with his attack on the environment and social systems and his alienation of most of his allies, how can an economic disaster not be in the cards? And isn't an economic disaster the only thing that can wake the average US citizens up from their slumber? Of course the US might not actually end up being any less wealthy, but what will happen is that the wealth will be even more hyper-concentrated with the few with table scraps thrown to those who are willing to do whatever they ask of them. What this is going to create is a two-tier system. Those who are part of it and are either super-wealthy or at least surviving, and those who aren't part of the system. The hero will come from the later group and a type of civil war is the only means by which change will come about. A say a type of civil war because it may or may not involve physical violence. What it will be is a complete refusal of "the system." People might turn off from mass media and on to independents. They might form a critical mass and boycott all the companies that outsource their labor or have connections to those that do, etc. As a matter of fact the US might go through a socialist type revolution just like the USSR went through a capitalist one.

Ahhh… imagination, such a wonderful thing. Just call me “Cliff the prognosticator of Gloom!” from now on.

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

The economy. Hmmmm.... I recall that our country "broke" or went broke in the great depression, and FDR, Hitler, Tojo, and Stalin had a field day! From all that gloom and doom came the atomic age, the information superhighway, the genome project, and an explosion of innovation.

Cliff, you are not predicting gloom for humanity or the environment. You're predicting painful transformation. Many eggs will be broken to create the next omelet.

I give you a hard time, because you're the only one on the forums with the gall to take me on. In point of fact, anyone who challenges me has heroic qualities worth noting.

The nice thing about this Democrat is that you won't have to drag me into the fray, kicking and screaming. The bad thing is that you will have to pinch your nose and jump into what may turn out to be a steaming pile of political crapola.
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