When you´re offered the gift of bliss...

Joseph Campbell formulated what became his most quoted dictum, "Follow your bliss" in the decade before his death. Join this conversation to explore this idea and share stories.

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

Hi there.
Is anyone familiar with the mythological theme of being blessed with meeting your other half (soulmate, someone who is the perfect reflection of who you are and who you can be at the same time)while you are still in a good relationship? I would really need a mythological perspective in order to handle this test...
It is both blissful and frightening at the same time.
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Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Storyteller,

Intresting question! I was watching a Campbell video last week and he said something to the effect that people who try to speak of or analyze love are fools, so he would only say a couple of things... :wink:

I've always thought, and still do that bliss is first found within. One can temporarily project what one seeks in one self on to another person, but at least in my expereince and observations that never works in the long run. I believe that those who we are attracted to bring out in us exactly the challenges we need to face next. Surrender to it (see it as a chance to better understand our fears and ego) and experience the compassionate Buddha, fight it (by pushing it on them, blaming them for our unhappiness) and then we experience the wrathful Buddha/God/Allah/etc.

Comments?




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

These are my notes from Campbell's cd entitled "Western Quest: The Mythology of Love":

In India, in the Vishnu sect of religion, there are five stages of love. Through love, we move more toward God:
1. servant to master (obedience)

2. friend to friend (like Christ and apostles)

3. parent to child (Christmas crib - live through kids)

4. husband and wife (like nuns being brides of Christ)

5. illicit love (overtaken by it - wild passion)

In illicit love, you lose the world and yourself, but gain God.

Of course, there is a lot more on the cd, and if you want, let me know, and I'll send you all of my notes:)

But, I would tell you that you must decide what YOU want - do you want the security of your spouse? Do you want the "illicit love"? Personally, my goal in life is to have as many experiences in one lifetime as possible. To that end, I would only agree to an open marriage. But, that's just me!

Good luck! And let us know!
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Post by Storyteller » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2004-10-30 12:15, cliff w wrote:
Hi Storyteller,

Intresting question! I was watching a Campbell video last week and he said something to the effect that people who try to speak of or analyze love are fools, so he would only say a couple of things... :wink:

I've always thought, and still do that bliss is first found within. One can temporarily project what one seeks in one self on to another person, but at least in my expereince and observations that never works in the long run. I believe that those who we are attracted to bring out in us exactly the challenges we need to face next. Surrender to it (see it as a chance to better understand our fears and ego) and experience the compassionate Buddha, fight it (by pushing it on them, blaming them for our unhappiness) and then we experience the wrathful Buddha/God/Allah/etc.

Comments?

Thanks for the advice. It rimes with the way I try to look upon life nowadays. When I make a decision, I ask myself whether it´s made from fear or love. And in this particular case, I guess it would be a decision based on fear to say no to the gift offered by life...


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

On 2004-10-31 01:58, aecleo wrote:
These are my notes from Campbell's cd entitled "Western Quest: The Mythology of Love":

In India, in the Vishnu sect of religion, there are five stages of love. Through love, we move more toward God:
1. servant to master (obedience)

2. friend to friend (like Christ and apostles)

3. parent to child (Christmas crib - live through kids)

4. husband and wife (like nuns being brides of Christ)

5. illicit love (overtaken by it - wild passion)

In illicit love, you lose the world and yourself, but gain God.

Of course, there is a lot more on the cd, and if you want, let me know, and I'll send you all of my notes:)

But, I would tell you that you must decide what YOU want - do you want the security of your spouse? Do you want the "illicit love"? Personally, my goal in life is to have as many experiences in one lifetime as possible. To that end, I would only agree to an open marriage. But, that's just me!

Good luck! And let us know!

Hey! That was quite life changing stuff...
I guess I have decided to accept the gift of bliss and see what happens. I have a feeling that a growth possibility like this won´t come back if I turn it down.
Does the theory say anything about how we are moving through these five stages?
Do they come in a certain order, or do we have to pass through one in order to qualify for the next, or how do they look upon it.
Greetings from a fool who just can´t stop analyzing love...
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Post by aecleo » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Storyteller!

First, let me clarify that there is a difference between Campbell's "bliss" and erotic bliss. Campbell's is about finding something in your life that compels you to take the hero's journey.

On that note, one of the later steps in the hero's journey is a return to the ordinary world. So, although he doesn't discuss it, I imagine that one would move back and forth through the stages of love - it's not a one-way street.

Campbell also discusses (can't remember exactly where right now) three types of love: eros, agape, and amor. Eros is sexual, Agape is "love thy brother", and amor is courtly love.

So, before you go chasing what you think is bliss, perhaps you should step back and ask yourself which of these categories your feelings are in? Do you really want to put a rift between your spouse and yourself?

I personally believe that marriage and sex are completely different things. American culture claims that these two are one, but I disagree. Marriage is a social arrangement - it provides stability for all involved. Sex is more personal, but clearly a biological need. As adults, we are responsible for taking care of ourselves - not above others - but not to be a burden on others. Are your needs fulfilled by your relationship with your spouse? If your answer is, "I thought so until I met this other person," then I would tell you not to do it. If your answer is that you have been searching for something/someone for a long time, I would ask you to define what you need before jumping into someone else's bed. This is a decision that needs to be made very carefully.

Although experiencing "illicit love" sounds exciting, it comes with a heavy price. You will have to decide what to do about your spouse - tell or keep it a secret? If you have kids, this will affect who they are. You must choose wisely, like in all the great mythologies. However, you have made a commitment to your spouse. This is a moment that will tell what kind of person you are.

One last thing...if you are doing this because you think you are following your bliss, you need to look elsewhere, because a love affair is not it. True bliss is much greater than sex - it is illicit love.
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Post by charlie45 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I understand that bliss is so much more than the feeling of being in love. I also know that relationships are not easy and that marriage is the hardest relationship to mature with and through..however.. how do you move beyond wanting more from a relationship that is suffocating? How do you find your bliss if the confinds of the relationship are holding you back. Or is bliss working with that relationship because of the ramifications on others if you give up.

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

Storyteller

Difficult spot to be in - the question, of course, would be is this your bliss?

Of course, the moment may already have come and gone and the matter might well be decided by now - but thought i'd weigh in with an expansion on aecleo's words of wisdom

As aecleo points out, Campbell does not necessarily mean that following one's bliss leads automatically to erotic bliss - nor is he advocating adultery. Campbell does, though, have much to say about illicit love in twelfth century India and elsewhere - but he's making a point about the cost of following one's bliss - what are we willing to sacrifice?

For most of recorded history, Campbell points out that marriage has been an economic relationship – a marriage of bank accounts, not a merging of hearts. For at least ten thousand years, and likely much longer (if the nonliterate, primal cultures still existing today are any indicator of the patterns of prehistoric cultures), it's not the individual, but Dad that chooses one's spouse - and Dad has priorities other than stirrings of the heart.

Yes, there have been rare exceptions of individual initiative, and the occasional father who paid heed to his child's preferences - but generally, marriage was based on practical considerations (betrothals were often pledged at or even before birth): all the better if love should bloom, but that's only a welcome side-benefit.

This begins to change though, in Europe, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Robert Johnson discusses "the very slow but demonstrable evolution of the archetypal world and its manifestation with us as it evolves and changes." Archetypes do evolve, though this is a gradual process - we are still in the midst of a change that began in twelfth century Europe.

Prior to that point, love was either "eros" (lust, passion, or in Campbell's descriptive phrasing, "the zeal of the organs for one another"), or "agape" - (spiritual, godly, brotherly love - "philia"),

both of which are collective in nature - the individual doesn't matter so much...

...but then, Moorish "tarab-adors" (yes - something else we can thank Islam for) introduce a concept picked up and refined by the troubadors of Provence and the Minnesingers (singers of Love) throughout Europe:

Amor.

Campbell discusses this at length in Creative Mythology, noting parallel to the Moors a similar theme unfolding in Japan in Mahayana Buddhism, evident in Lady Murasaki's "Tale of Genji" (the first appearance of the novel)

- but the European contribution is romantic love as an expression of the individual's character and sentiments - a revolution far more reaching than democratic government or communist movements.

Campbell depicts "the poet as the devotee of his lady, who is radiant and potent not by analogy, but with a brilliance and a grace of her own that is sufficient for life in this world." A troubadour isn't just "as if-ing," but actually experiences his lover as a goddess in her own right.

A friend once summed up Campbell's conceptualization of amour: "I see god in my husband. I know he sees god in me. We are bonded, we create a world for and with each other. Less than that is, well, less than that."

Of course, romantic love, as it emerged over eight hundred years ago, was initially adulterous in nature.

Why?

Two reasons...

First, marriage itself was love-less, save for the fortunate freak occurrence. Love existed, if it were to be found at all, outside the bounds of marriage. "True love," in the time of the great medieval romances, is illicit love. Isolde loves Tristan, not King Mark, her lawfully betrothed. Arthur, though pleased with his wife's appearance, marries Guinevere for political reasons, to consolidate his kingdom

(note, Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave notwithstanding, in traditional accounts he makes the arrangements not with her, but with her father);

it is Guinevere and Lancelot who are soul mates, not Guinevere and Arthur.

Joseph Campbell points out that in India, the different forms are ranked from lowest to highest. These are the degrees of love Aecleo lists:

that of servant to master, friend to friend, parent and child, husband and wife, and, the highest form of love, illicit love ...

Campbell isn’t talking about how to love in our day and age, but how it was conceived in ancient India

which brings us to the second reason why the power of romantic love was initially felt in adulterous relationships.

To be caught in the medieval period - whether in Europe, Baghdad, India, or Japan - in an adulterous relationship meant more than a nasty divorce and division of property.

The penalty for romantic love was death.

Romantic Love, then signifies the emergence of an archetype that transcends Death –

and not just death, but, in Europe, eternal torment in hell fire!

In medieval, Catholic Europe, the devotees of the "cult of Amor" were raised in a milieu that automatically accepted the existence of a vengeful God and eternal damnation in hell fire for sinners -

which Tristan and Isolde know (when they drink the love potion, they know they are drinking their Death);

which Guinevere and Lancelot know (suggested in the smoke and flame of the final battle which consumes Arthur's kingdom).

Love - amor – is experienced as more powerful than God Almighty!

(Hmm... can't help but wonder how many of us in contemporary western culture would stay with our one True Love if we knew we would suffer the unbearable, indescrible, excruciating anguish of eternal torture as a result of our choice? Puts in perspective the risks taken by historical heroes such as Heloise and Eleanor of Aquitane...)

Fortunately, we have evolved beyond that point.

Campbell notes the beginnings of this change for the better in the tale of Parzival, who is offered a daughter in marriage by his mentor, Gurnemanz – but Parzival declines, because he has not earned her love. Eventually, he meets and saves a "little queen," and love blooms. They are married -

not at the instigation of Dad, or with the blessings of clergy, but by and through their own actions, their own choice.

Parzival's wife's name is "Conduireamuirs" - which Campbell notes is from the Provencal tongue - "conduire" has the same etymology as the verb "conduct", and amuirs - amour - so she is Parzival's "guide to Love."

This is something completely new - a marriage based on love. As this change ripples through the culture and across centuries, we find our own situation today has changed - now our marriages are (theoretically) rooted in love - with "true love" expected to lead to marriage, not adultery.

I’ll recommend Campbell’s Creative Mythology (Volume IV of The Masks of God series), which delves into this at length. The cycle of medieval romances mark a cultural change which leads directly to our belief in individual love today - no longer do we have to battle the weight of our entire culture for the right to choose our own mate…

Much of this reflects not just changes in the conception of love, but the emergence of the individual as an independent actor able to trust one’s own will, rather than remain subservient to the duties society places on one.

The question, though, remains ... is this potential paramour your soul mate?

Of course, your heart will lead you where it will ... but thought this context might help.

best wishes
bodhibliss


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

Storyteller wrote:
Hi there.
Is anyone familiar with the mythological theme of being blessed with meeting your other half (soulmate, someone who is the perfect reflection of who you are and who you can be at the same time)while you are still in a good relationship? I would really need a mythological perspective in order to handle this test...
It is both blissful and frightening at the same time.
Welcome Storyteller. This is an excellent question. To my mind, the subsequent posts have offered much to consider. In particular the thoughts and embedded quotes Bodhibliss includes in his post are excellent and astute. In this regard, I can offer no more.

But what additional thoughts crossed my mind are thus:

1. Jungian ideas of animus/anima projection:

Is this soulmate's attributes well known to you: said another way, are they his/hers? or are they projection of your animus/anima? Are they a combination of both?


2. "Love at first sight"

Was it this? This could possibly be a very big animus/anima projection (which is a great learning lesson for you about you!). Or was this a slower process of getting to know one, the other, or both?


3. complication and responsibility

What would it mean to lose either person from your life? There are no promises either way; but the already established relationship is a path somewhat known: is it worth keeping above all else? Likewise, embracing or letting go this potential soulmate, would this be a lifetime's mistake? But it could be more complex. If you have responsibilities that would suffer (eg. kids) for leaving a "good" relationship, this also weighs in quite heavily.

If there are these in one's life, following "bliss" is perhaps not ideal at the moment.


Only you and your heart will know these answers, and the previous postings offer some good aspects of myths and stories to help guide.

I experienced aspects of this dilemma a year ago. And I agree, it is blissful and frightening. My soul sang in better voice than ever before. But it did have a cost. I have recently come to conclude that it must have been a "love at first sight" anima/us projection, at least for some of it. Fortunately, it means that all the beautiful attributes I 'valued' in him, are likewise my own. An intense lesson to be sure.

Mysterious and powerful how these things work. Overwhelming. Complex.

I wish you all the best in sorting this difficult situation out.

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

Does the theory say anything about how we are moving through these five stages?
Do they come in a certain order, or do we have to pass through one in order to qualify for the next, or how do they look upon it.
I'm no expert in the Vaishnava tradition, but I don't think that these are 'stages' in the sense that one progresses through them. That carries a Western tone that I think is not intended. At least as presented in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna I think the idea is more that these are different ways to experience God, that are appropriate to the different natures of various people. In other words, find the one that speaks to you and give yourself to it completely, with no thought that there is some other 'level' to be reached, and that will bring you to a knowledge of the love of God that is proper to you. It is related I think to the idea that Dante uses in the Paradiso, that all the souls in Heaven, no matter their position, are experiencing God in the fullness of their capacity, and have no yearning for a greater or different experience.
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Post by charlie45 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks for the insights. Bliss is complex to say the least and open to much interpretation. Relationships are the same way. I may long for something that dosnt exsist. I need some time to reflect on all of these thoughts.....I would like to respond after some reflection. Thanks for the foder.....
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Post by Psyche » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Since reading Storyteller's initial question, the thoughts thenceforth provoked have been rattling about in my head. It's a brilliant question.

To begin, I found this book filled with thoughtful essays which I found immensely helpful in beginning to even skim the surface:

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?


For the past few years, one of my ongoing waking meditations has been on the nature of Love, and then how it becomes so complex when we are not complete people in our own right. Love perhaps can then be likened to a beam of light that is bent and broken up through prisms, obstacles, barriers, and shadows. It is always present, but may not be felt as it should be. Strangely, Needs are met - perhaps the mutual projections of a new couple do fill those aspects of self that are not resolved: we've all heard those words "you make me complete" or "my better half", and so on. Interestingly telling puns.

From "Behold: The Power of Love" by J. Levine:
To Love is to behold - to fall fully open to the amazing wonders of another human soul. [...] Just consider love's many dimensions. On a biological level, the very survival of our species depends on love. [...]On a social level, people who love and feel emotionally connected to others actually live longer and are more resilient to despair and disease ... Love somehow fortifies our immune systems [...] On an individual level, love can inspire us to grow beyond ourselves. Miraculously, love holds the potential to heal emotional wounds and move us beyond our fears and limitations. [...] On a spiritual level, love enables us to transcend our temporal and material world. [...]

...Thich Nhat Hanh: "To love means to listen," he teaches. "The capacity of listening to ourselves is the foundation of the capacity of listening to others". This capacity to truly listen - to perceive and experience another human being wholly - comes exclusively through the act of loving. It is the power to behold. And it begins with learning to behold and accept ourselves."
Here lies the key with regard to the potential Projective aspect of Love. Once we are in a position of being much more resolved with our selves and at peace with who we are, the less likely we are to project lots of stuff on another person (which dissolves after several months of the initial love dilerium - "he/she isn't who I thought they were...").

It seems to me then, a true "soul mate" would be found and maintained once this level of self resolution and ability to listen and appreciate (both self and the other) is achieved. How blissful and wonderful that would be! Myself, I would embrace this blissfully, no hesitations ... but then, if I were so self resolved, then there would be no question in my mind, I suppose.

I return to the biological attraction:
If you meet a DNA match you will feel chemistry between you. What you do about that is up to you, and it will determine whether the fool is to be, or not to be.
A very strong force to reckon with, indeed. The goal of this kind of DNA matching with other DNA that is unlike one's own is to promote virile offspring, and diversity in immunity. But DNA strength is one matter which is not always compatible with individual, family, and social attractors and characteristics and conditionings: early experiences, dynamics, personalities.

George Doub writes:
Our families greatly influence three crucial processes in our ability to form and sustain balanced and loving relationships: how we choose, how we speak, and how we touch."
He also notes that "embers can turn to flame".

Amy Gerson writes in her essay "The Search for a Soul Mate":
The term soul mate has recently become part of the pop culture vocabulary. A soul mate is one's emotional, intellectual, and spiritual twin. The concept of a soul mate is very appealing; it connotes wholeness and the end of one's longing and loneliness. In our culture's modern mythology, two soul mates fit together like two interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

In fantasy, I embrace the concept of the soul mate. But in reality, I know that it is a purely romantic concept; if embraced literally, it will leave people with an enduring sense of emptiness and a lack of fulfillment. In truth, people's personalities have many facets, like a finely cut diamond. Finding one person who matches all your facets is simply not possible. [...] we realize that one person alone can never fulfill us. Thus we require a variety of people in our lives. The best friend, professional colleague, tennis partner, confidante, co-shopper, and lover are just a few...

Instead of searching for a life partner who is a soul mate, we need to search for a person we can connect with on those essential dimensions that we hold most dear. Family, work, religion, politics, mutual respect, caring, and "provision of safety" are examples of important areas. [...]

The internal side of the equation is that we must also deeply understand and accept who we really are! We need to confront our own wounds and fears, thus healing ourselves in the very way we expected help from our soul mate. It is easiest to love those qualities in another that are most similar to the ones we value in ourselves. It is much more difficult to love - even to truly accept - the differences. In accepting - and then learning to love - the differences, one transcends oneself (an experience of self beyond one's own limits and boundaries), and achieves a hard-to-define but very special spiritual peace. This realization does not lead to an ecstatic merger of partners, but rather to a loving acceptance. [...]

Carl Jung empathized: "The experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.".


We seem to be dipping into the Hero's Journey again.


Steven Pinker:
Look for a partner who is committed to staying with you because you are you.

Ah! The wonderful mystery of You as determined by a great many factors, but perhaps more importantly, the process of ritual, rites (of initiation), maturity (as per the Nietzsche three stages of soul story, as recounted by Joseph Campbell), and then Jungian concept of Individuation (The Hero's Journey). Here we can once again return to our ever faithful Myths (like Theseus, and Odysseus), but perhaps more useful, the Grail stories (key ones mentioned by Bodhi_Bliss), esp when read metaphorically (Tristan & Isolde's deaths, for example). We could perhaps consider this a metaphor of the transcendant aspect of Love: we die to one aspect of being in the name of something that is more than ourselves.


To add another perspective:


thandiwe wrote:
in
you grew
into my life
sub
subliminally
seeping in
titrated infinitely
with patience
&
certainty.
a vapor
without witness
odorless...
travelling
thru the land
of my temple
curling around
the neurons
&
woven
in the marrow
long
before i knew u solid
parting rivers
down my spine.

This poem, it seesm to me, links up very nicely with the earlier thought of "embers into flames".


This greatly appeals to me. I like this idea of slowing growing into each other, really getting to know and trust each other: immediatly loving the similar and slowing embracing that which is dissimilar.


Lovely subject to contemplate.

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