What do You Lose When You Lose Your Myth

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What do You Lose When You Lose Your Myth

Post by sladeb » Fri Dec 21, 2007 10:20 am

Well another Christmas comes around for we in the Western world. Again we are left to ponder the significance of a festival which, for most, is more about the commercialism than it is about the myths that shaped our world view.

Many of us here speak of our journey out of belief, out of religion and out of mainstream belief systems. Yet for many of us, having abandoned our myth we find ourselves without anything that shapes our lives apart from life itself.

As I listen to carols, to bach's cantatas and the usual Messiah offertory, a part of me cannot help but wonder why this music resonates with me still, yet I discount the belief system from which it has sprung.

And I cannot help but wonder what I losy when I lost my beliefs, when I lost my myth. Is it perhaps that it is actually the way that the christian heritage has been turned and twisted to become whatever it is that the churches wanted it to be that I so despise. For if I set aside the organised religous systems that have become the modus operandi for much of Christianity I am left with a set of myths that actually was of value. So perhaps it is actually for me to claim back my heritage in a way that provides a satisfactory framework for my own life, a set of lenses through which to participate joyfully in all the incongruities of life.

Anyway, happy season to all here, whatever year end means to you...
The one thing I have learned about the quest journey is that as soon as you draw to the close of one quest - another calls and the journey begins once more.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Dec 21, 2007 11:00 am

Hi Slade! Well said.

You know, many of us may abandon our religion, but why may say a lot if you look at the specifics. I've outlined my early experience with Christianity before, so I won't go into detail, but why I left Catholicism is rooted more in the details of the club... all the huffing and puffing and rules and regulations about how you can think and how you can't and what's right and what's wrong.

But there were ancillary experiences... singing in the choir, the rituals of the holy days, the camaraderie of my peers, the power of the stories. All that sticks.

I sometimes wonder, am I as liberal as I am because I still take the Sermon on the Mount seriously? Is it this that exasperates me so over so called Christians who find room for war, war that increasingly destroys children, torture and xenophobia in the teachings of Christ?

We never fully let go. We can't. It's ingrained in our psyche. So yes, I think you have a point. Those values are still there, absorbed and assimilated. But the religion seems to have been a kind of kindergarten, a place for small children who need to be looked after, but which you leave to fend for yourself when you come of age.

As for Christmas... ah, Christmas. Christmas is made of our past associations and experiences. For many this is not a good thing at all, but for me the magic still reaches up through the years and for that I'm thankful to Sister Esther, Sister Francita, Father Burns and Father Sullivan. Mom and Dad.

Additionally, here we are at the Solstice, a time, I think, that is ingrained in our DNA. As I said in my piece HERE:
So we celebrate. So we thumb our noses at our greatest fear and look beyond to our greatest hope: a warm sun and a harvest good enough to put on weight and strength to stem the following winter. What a wonderful and human thing to do.
Well now. Slade it's reversed for you, but north of the Equator, the sun returns... no coincidence that this is where we put Christ's birth.

Cheers! Let us tip a glass in thought of one another!

Clemsy
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Post by nandu » Sat Dec 22, 2007 5:01 am

Sladeb and Clemsy,

It's been my experience that you can bury your religion but not your myth. Never. You are it, and it is you.

The myth is ingrained somewhere deep down, much deeper than conscious thought and even subconscious images. It is where the conscious and subconscious originate.

Christ was never in Churches, but within you; if you look deep, you'll find him living there still.

Nandu.
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Post by sladeb » Tue Dec 25, 2007 9:26 am

Hi Clemsy and Nandu,

Clemsy: As our Christmas day is almost over I wanted to say that I tipped a glass in your general direction today (a delightful cab-sav from the Hunter Valley - what can I say... :D ) Your reply made me think. For us downunder - there is never really a season when we suffer from the food shortages that are so much a part of life in the colder Northern Hemisphere winters. Perhaps it has made us too comfortable and less grateful for our life downunder. The severity of the drought has certainly brought home to us for the first time the finite nature of some of our resources. And perhaps that will be a good thing - if at the very least we start with a gratitude for the bounty that makes our existence possible.

Nandu : Thanks for your insights. Your observations resonate with the Jungian view that I love so much. I think you are right - our myths are with us always. Jung would say it is in our collective unconscious and Clemsy perhaps it is there that so much resonance comes from the memories of our childhood. What worries me then, is that our children will not have those resonating memories from a time before commercialism took obver Christmas. For Gen Y'ers and since, the resonance with a religious element in the Christmas message may never be there. What a sad loss that is indeed. As "stille nacht" becomes "late night shopping" what is left to resonate in the unconscious.

Anyway, have a great day and evening all, and Nandu - thanks for the pointer back to the source of the myth.
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Post by Clemsy » Wed Dec 26, 2007 2:34 pm

Slade! Christmas Eve was awash in your very palatable Yellowtail Shiraz. Christmas night, having a Latino theme (paella and pasteles) was accompanied by a very nice Spanish red.

Yesterday the family, as is our tradition on Christmas and Easter, went to Catholic Mass. Thankfully, the priest was genuine and embraced everyone. While I always appreciate the ritual, my pre-Vatican II indoctrination leaves me feeling as if something is missing.

All in all a great holiday. Snow on the ground and a fire in the stove.

Cheers,
Clemsy
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Post by Chancemo » Sun Jan 06, 2008 10:47 pm

When you lose your Myth....???
OUCH...
Though I certainly understand your point, particularly about the 'organized' side of religion seeming to completely miss the point...to greatly cheapen, if not completely destroy, the beauty of the whole thing outside of the organization.
Anyway...
I can't help but float about in the ether for a bit here and respond to the question of 'What happens when you lose your Myth' by borrowing from POM interviews of Campbell by Moyers...the Vesari (Sp?) myth of the boy who brought home the bird of the most beautiful song of the forest....his father didn't want to waste food in feeding something so silly as just a bird...He killed the bird, with the bird he killed the song, with the song he killed himself. As Joseph Campbell pointed out in response to this..."Mythology is the song."
Sooo....yep, that's what happens...metaphorically, we die a little as a result, our very humanity faces destruction in the absence of 'The Song."

At least that's how I've come to understand it :-)

--Chanec
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Post by Evinnra » Mon Jan 07, 2008 7:13 am

Merry Christmas Slade and all.

Thankfully I've managed to make it home for Christmas, arrived back in Melbourne around 2 am on the 25th. It was fantastic spending nearly a month in Budapest that was celebrating Advent! That city never stops being beautiful!

But - unexpectedly, I might add - it did feel like Christmas when I've got here, although this year I didn't make it to midnight mass. Could the myth die within us?

How could the myth of Christ's birth, the anticipation of the Light disappear when there always seems to be a feeling of expectation, anticipation of renewal in the air around Christmas time. Even here, in the southern part of the globe there is the same 'milieu' as in the northern part. It only hit me this year when I had direct experience of a 'global anticipation of the light' in both hemispheres! It made me realise that it is not only our ritual preparations alone and the usual activities that 'make' the Christmas spirit, but the spirit of Christmas must be ‘out there’ existing on its own. Could it be that we are acting in a certain way, having our particular rituals because we are responding to something inexpressible yet tangible.

Could it be that all of our Myths are such 'reactions' to our context hence they never really diminish?
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Post by satoriswings » Tue Jan 15, 2008 5:40 am

When my myths failed me it took some time of exploration and tragedy for me to find a way to replace them. At present I'm into Zen. Not Buddhism, just experiential Zen, along with an eclectic set of myths I've drawn from here and there.

As a writer my imagination goes to all kinds of places. I recreated my Christian myth, wrote a book about it and am now in the process of marketing that and other myths/stories I've written. It's a cool thing to do. And of course it falls into the following my bliss thing.

I do miss enjoying Christmas - the family stuff. But it pretty much left me because of the deaths of two very special people. After that I could not resurrect the enjoyment of the holiday.
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Tue Jan 15, 2008 9:39 am

Welcome to the JCF forums, Chancemo & Satoriswings!

I like the idea of Zen as a practize for people, independent from their religious and mythological background.

As someone with a pictorial mind, like you I prefer creating my own personal mythology rather than relying on others.

Joseph Campbell used to explain the powerful mythic impact of James Joyce and Thomas Mann with the strong religious indoctrination in their youth. That's true as well for Campbell's own development. Sometimes you need to loose something meaningful to achieve something powerful.

I grew up myself in a Catholic environment. I'm glad that I have lost it; and I'm glad that I had it (and if only to loose it).

And I still like fir trees, though it saddens to see them in the streets after they have been dumped. Somehow this image of dumped christmas trees seems to reflect pretty well the condition of christianity.
Works of art are indeed always products of having been in danger, of having gone to the very end in an experience, to where man can go no further. -- Rainer Maria Rilke
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Post by A J » Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:12 pm

sladeb said:
As I listen to carols, to bach's cantatas and the usual Messiah offertory, a part of me cannot help but wonder why this music resonates with me still, yet I discount the belief system from which it has sprung.

And I cannot help but wonder what I lost when I lost my beliefs, when I lost my myth.

....if I set aside the organised religous systems that have become the modus operandi for much of Christianity I am left with a set of myths that actually was of value.
I guess, slaceb, that I might suggest to you that you have not lost your myth. You have lost your belief in a system. The myth of Christianity can still be valid for those who recognize it to be a myth, a set of symbolic stories, tales, and allegory mixed with bits of history - a myth. The music you still respond to is part of the symbolism as well.


Clemsy said:
...why I left Catholicism is rooted more in the details of the club... all the huffing and puffing and rules and regulations about how you can think and how you can't and what's right and what's wrong. But there were ancillary experiences... singing in the choir, the rituals of the holy days, the camaraderie of my peers, the power of the stories. All that sticks....But the religion seems to have been a kind of kindergarten, a place for small children who need to be looked after, but which you leave to fend for yourself when you come of age.
Clemsy, you sound like I sounded when I was your age. Perhaps returning to Eliot's "place where you started ans seeing it for the first time" works best for old men and crones. Perhaps for some of us, it's about suspending our disbelief long enough to practice the ritual. I hear what you are saying about the "huffing and puffing." The congregation I practice and serve with is going through a conservative backlash at the moment. There is a lot of politics going on inside churches. Maybe that's one of the reasons I've decided to stick it out. When the liberals leave, the organization goes even further off track.

Nandu said:
Christ was never in Churches, but within you; if you look deep, you'll find him living there still.
Nandu, once again, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with you at the same time. How is that.? :) Christ is in churches when the individuals there truly have Him in their hearts. When that is the case, much good work can be done.


Chancemo said:
I can't help but float about in the ether for a bit here and respond to the question of 'What happens when you lose your Myth' by borrowing from POM interviews of Campbell by Moyers...the Vesari (Sp?) myth of the boy who brought home the bird of the most beautiful song of the forest....his father didn't want to waste food in feeding something so silly as just a bird...He killed the bird, with the bird he killed the song, with the song he killed himself. As Joseph Campbell pointed out in response to this..."Mythology is the song."
Sooo....yep, that's what happens...metaphorically, we die a little as a result, our very humanity faces destruction in the absence of 'The Song."


Yes, wonderfully said, Chancemo, and welcome, BTW, Campbell also said that when we slay the dragon, we slay ourselves, that what we need to do is incorporate the dragon, or something to that effect. (Also very Jungian, isn't it?)


Evinnra said:
It made me realise that it is not only our ritual preparations alone and the usual activities that 'make' the Christmas spirit, but the spirit of Christmas must be ‘out there’ existing on its own. Could it be that we are acting in a certain way, having our particular rituals because we are responding to something inexpressible yet tangible.
I believe so, Evinnra. I do not think that the "something tangible" is limited to Christianity alone, but I do think that our experience of Christmas is one of the valid experiences of that Divine, by whatever name It is called.

satoriswings said:
As a writer my imagination goes to all kinds of places. I recreated my Christian myth, wrote a book about it and am now in the process of marketing that and other myths/stories I've written. It's a cool thing to do. And of course it falls into the following my bliss thing.
Welcome to you, too, satoriswings. From one writer to another, it sounds like you have found a way to keep your myth alive, and that is a good thing.

Martin Weyers said:
Sometimes you need to loose something meaningful to achieve something powerful.

I grew up myself in a Catholic environment. I'm glad that I have lost it; and I'm glad that I had it (and if only to loose it).
That, too, sounds like a younger AJ, when I was learning from Campbell and Jung and others I might not have found if I had not left the church. For me today, crone that I am, I have chosen to return to the institution as my own means of practicing and serving my vision of what some call God. At the same time, I am reminded of the response of the Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA, Katherine Jefferts-Schori: "We in the Episcopal Church understand Jesus as our connection to The Divine, but to say that he is the only way would be to put God in a very small box." (I'm quoting from memory, I may be a word or so off, but I think I have her full intent.)

My personal decision was made for several reasons. I missed the practice of the Eucharist (the Mass), I wished, in my retirement, to be of service to the community, and to be part of a group, having lived most of my life with a strong sense of independence. There is so much work that needs to be done, and in Christianity, the apparatus is in place. One cannot effect much change from the outside.

I do not believe the myth is lost. Neither do I believe it is the only valid myth. Our perceptions of this Divine Force differ with our experiences. Underneath all these myths lies the same archetypal power. That is what we all respond to at Christmas, as well as at other times, in other myths and practices.

AJ
"Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do is all we need. Almost anything then becomes a continuous and increasing joy."

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Post by satoriswings » Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:17 pm

Martin_Weyers

Thanks for the welcome. I'm so glad I found this place with folks of like mind. If I talk about Joe Campbell myths/ideas to my fundamentalist Christian family they think I am a lost soul. I grew up in the Church of Christ - it's sort of like Southern Baptist. They dissect even the nat's eyebrow. I realize that it is a maturity issue. But it's hard to be around them.

At my brother's murder trial, in a recording made at the time he was picked up and confessed, he said, "Religion has ruined my life. I have never had any fun." And he sobbed. He was not one to cry. He had just killed his religious neighbors for "running off" his family. He was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic by the psychologist for the defense. Between the drugs the medical community had given him and the failure of the myths in his life, he ended up in prison for the rest of his life. That was in 1980. He was 41. He still has not found a way to replace his myths. It's the ultimate failure of those myths. I remember reading of a study in college where it was found that 25 percent of first time admissions to mental hospitals were from severely religious backgrounds. They could not measure up, they faced eternal damnation and so they lost it. Again the ultimate failure of the myth. They could not see that it was a myth.

AJ

Thanks for the welcome.

I like the way you have selected out what each have said and commented on those statements. I like your comments. If I'd been raised in a more liberal church environment, it might be different. My goal is to try to help others through the publications of my myths. I hope to reach multitudes this way with stirring stories that bring hope. Each of my works has guidance like one finds in Og Mandino's books, though my storylines are very different from his. And I'm not a academic, so my works are different from Joe Campbell's.
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Post by Evinnra » Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:11 pm

A J wrote:


Evinnra said:
It made me realise that it is not only our ritual preparations alone and the usual activities that 'make' the Christmas spirit, but the spirit of Christmas must be ‘out there’ existing on its own. Could it be that we are acting in a certain way, having our particular rituals because we are responding to something inexpressible yet tangible.
I believe so, Evinnra. I do not think that the "something tangible" is limited to Christianity alone, but I do think that our experience of Christmas is one of the valid experiences of that Divine, by whatever name It is called.


AJ
Indeed AJ, the term 'something tangible' was intended to point to the base for ANY ritual.

To be rather blunt: if myth is lost its not the myth that is gone but our ability to relate to it.

How do one navigate in life without having a compass - an innate sense of the truth - how do one design fashion, make movies, work in politics, law, medicine or education (etc. etc.) without the sensitivity to Myth? A sensitivity to Myth is the same as sensitivity to what is true. What is peculiar to all myths is that although they are not literally true, they are expressing what is true. A loss to this innate sense is not due to bad priests or religious bigotts - as far as I recon - it is due to an innate rejection of the essence of truth. What to do when one prefers to reject innate truth ... (?) .

*climbing off the soap-box* :oops:
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Post by Vissi » Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:26 pm

Good day everyone,

As I've been reading and enjoying your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments, I can't help but wonder about Campbell's ideas on the difficulty of keeping to traditions that resist re-imagining because of insistence on an institutionalized need for an orthodoxy that stagnates the vivacity of the myth itself. It seems to me that dogmatizing and concretizing is what kills the bird of the most beautiful song and saps the lifeblood from the myth. When one is free to constantly redefine the melody of the myth through creative questioning, the bird rises, like the phoenix, from the ashes of the old, hardened paradoxes that bound it to other times and places. Campbell remarks often on the need to bring the myth forward, to allow it to breathe in our own times so we can relate, through our actual experience of it, rather than attempting to shape ourselves to suit something that cannot sing in our age. Many who are familiar with Campbell's work find that rather than separating them from their faith, his conceptualizing of the universal tenets inherent in all wisdom traditions, has the effect of strengthening their spirituality.

Though I may be a bit off topic here, and slade, please let me know if that is the case, I'd like to bring up a few questions that have come to me in conversations I've had with a brilliant teacher during the recent months. Knowing those here to be well-versed in Campbell's work and to have had personal experiences with Christianity, it would be efficacious to hear your thoughts on how you resolve these questions/paradoxes in your own faith life and whether the personal examination of a myth vivifies or eviscerates belief?

First, Elaine Pagels writes eloquently of the late-rising history of a God-shadow projection in The Origins of Satan. If God is indeed a God of love, infinite love, capable of forgiveness of all our personal foibles, sins, and transgressions, why is God not capable of making an infinite and eternal rapprochement with His/Her own shadowed, temporal emanation in the form of the character of Lucifer/Satan/Iblis/Shaitan?

Secondly, is the martyrdom of Jesus truly the central point of Christianity that one should focus upon? Is martyrdom a noble sacrifice and why does the God who forbids Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, require Jesus's death? To ask such questions could easily be deemed heretical or at the least disrespectful. Please be assured I don't intend disrespect and being personally a maverick, being heretical is a given. :)

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Post by nandu » Thu Jan 17, 2008 5:17 am

Hello everybody & a special hello to Vissi! Long time no see!
Vissi wrote: If God is indeed a God of love, infinite love, capable of forgiveness of all our personal foibles, sins, and transgressions, why is God not capable of making an infinite and eternal rapprochement with His/Her own shadowed, temporal emanation in the form of the character of Lucifer/Satan/Iblis/Shaitan?

Secondly, is the martyrdom of Jesus truly the central point of Christianity that one should focus upon? Is martyrdom a noble sacrifice and why does the God who forbids Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, require Jesus's death? To ask such questions could easily be deemed heretical or at the least disrespectful. Please be assured I don't intend disrespect and being personally a maverick, being heretical is a given. :)
Vissi, I believe the perception of myth changes according to the person viewing it, which in turn is based on historical/ sociological/ cultural/ religious/ (etc., etc.) background. In my perception, Christ's martyrdom is a matter of choice, the culmination of his Hero Journey. Christ on the Cross, Buddha under the Bo tree... these are enduring images in the human psyche. When it is placed in a historical context, as traditional Christianity does, is when the doubts starts creeping in.

This is what I meant when I said that Christ was inside one, not in the Churches. And AJ, I know what you mean.

Nandu.
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Post by Clemsy » Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:11 am

When the liberals leave, the organization goes even further off track.
AJ, there is such a temptation to run with this thought in a direction that may be erroneous. So I'll do so cautiously. Mixing politics and religion is really destructive to both. The Catholic Church decided to play a separate but parallel game a while ago (after we took the thumbscrews, bundles of sticks and torches out of their hands), resulting in rather left wing activities. You know, priests and nuns demonstrating against war... that sort of thing. Currently there is a tendency to jump back in the pool (If you are a pro-abortion politician, you can't receive communion and the like), along with the activist evangelicals, militant dominionists, kooks and crazies.

Looking at the middle school where I work as a kind of microcosm of the greater society I see mostly Christian colleagues who go to church every Sunday. I do believe they are a majority. However, of all these people only one or two can be considered fundamentalist. The others break down evenly between liberal, conservative and clueless (which may be a definition of 'centrist' today?) and share the same churches on Sundays.

The main difference between conservative and liberal Christians is a tendency for the conservative to have an urge to mandate what they consider the best for all, while the left leaning tend to want to mind their own business.

The conservative looks outward in the old ethnic model, the liberal tends to be more inward? Enough of this looking outward in superiority and disdain, masked by slogans like 'hate the sin, love the sinner,' and the inward types are liable to throw up their hands and take it elsewhere.

If what I am seeing is generally true, then I imagine many congregations are experiencing what you relate: the conservative, old time religioners who look back on the 50's as the golden age, and those who consider their relationship with the divine a personal matter. I wonder.... are those in this backlash Huckabee fans?

Cheers,
Clemsy

Vissi! Nice to see you!
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