Resurrect the Myth

What needs do mythology and religion serve in today's world and in ancient times? Here we discuss the relationship between mythology, religion and science from mythological, religious and philosophical viewpoints.

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

If I can "make" something sacred, then I am God.

Surely nobody is arguing that we are god here, are they?

ergo, if the word "sacred" is to have any meaning, then "sacred" is not created by the observer. The observer can, of course, make something sacred in his own mind, or not recognize that which is sacred, but in both cases the sacred quality does not emanate from himself but is only (mis)understood by himself. (And as observors of others and ourselves we can recognize how sacred is understood.)

In other words, if you accept the concept of sacred, then you also have to accept the definition that it is from God, and Godly, and not from man.

Just because I am asleep, that doesn't mean that the stars aren't there.

The issue of whose sacred object is true is a political discussion, not a philosophical discussion, if two people disagree.
You can only see the height of a mountain from its valley.


The radical myth towards which the helix aspires is beyond the desire for money or power, yet which has greater returns than all the power and money in the world could not achieve.
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Post by A J » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-11 16:33, SteveC wrote:
If I can "make" something sacred, then I am God.

Surely nobody is arguing that we are god here, are they?

ergo, if the word "sacred" is to have any meaning, then "sacred" is not created by the observer. The observer can, of course, make something sacred in his own mind, or not recognize that which is sacred, but in both cases the sacred quality does not emanate from himself but is only (mis)understood by himself. (And as observors of others and ourselves we can recognize how sacred is understood.)

In other words, if you accept the concept of sacred, then you also have to accept the definition that it is from God, and Godly, and not from man.

Just because I am asleep, that doesn't mean that the stars aren't there.

The issue of whose sacred object is true is a political discussion, not a philosophical discussion, if two people disagree.

From the American Heritage Online Dictionary:
sa·cred (skrd) KEY

ADJECTIVE:

Dedicated to or set apart for the worship of a deity.
Worthy of religious veneration: the sacred teachings of the Buddha.
Made or declared holy: sacred bread and wine.
Dedicated or devoted exclusively to a single use, purpose, or person: sacred to the memory of her sister; a private office sacred to the President.
Worthy of respect; venerable.
Of or relating to religious objects, rites, or practices.

ETYMOLOGY:
Middle English, past participle of sacren, to consecrate, from Old French sacrer, from Latin sacrre, from sacer , sacr-, sacred; see sak- in Indo-European roots
I keep reading these definitions and I continue to see the word "sacred" as referring to something initiated by man (or woman, as the case may be.) People call a thing sacred because they perceive it to be from God. It is we who do the dedicating, venerating, making and declaring, dedicating, relating, and consecrating. And we do those things based on our perceptions. We cannot know if what we venerate is God. That is what faith is all about.

AJ



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

A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

If I can "make" something sacred, then I am God.

Surely nobody is arguing that we are god here, are they?
If you're speaking from the 'personal god' perspective, that can sound absurd. However, I think that people can indeed make things sacred with god in such a sense. Did god choose what objects to consider sacred in the church? I don't recall him making a list.

Thou shalt have a cross.
Thou shalt have a sacristy.
Thou shalt have candles, thuribles and censers.
Etc.

How do holy relics become sacred? Because people believe them to be so.

People focus their spiritual intentions upon objects, which can act as a lens through which they can reach the divine.

However, from an immanent point of view, god is inherent in all things.

What is not sacred?

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

On 2007-02-11 16:33, SteveC wrote:
If I can "make" something sacred, then I am God.

Surely nobody is arguing that we are god here, are they?
Now you're getting it!

Tat tvam asi - "Thou Art That".

Joseph Campbell notes most mythologies support an individual experience of deity - realization of Identity with the Divine - but the Levantine religions (Zorastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are religions where Deity is not experienced directly (that's considered blasphemy), with the the accent instead on the individual's Relationship to the Divine.

Chistianity bridges this gap with the Holy Spirit - the presence of God in the believer - which comes closer to pagan and eastern traditions, but is still exclusive, and doesn't recognize the Divine in all Creation.

The Levantine faiths separate Creator from Creation - which is a significant departure from the traditional approach, where Creator and Created are One - and divinity suffuses the entire Universe - including you and me.

Hence the Hindu greeting namaste - "I bow to the God in you."

Of course, this is parallel to the realization that I and the brick wall are One - it's True on a deeper level, but if i believe i and a brick wall are literally the same, or believe that the physical, human portion of my being is concrete God, whether Yahweh or Zeus or Quetzalcoatl, then i'm either an accident waiting to happen or a soon-to-be resident of Happydale Sanitarium ...

I am God, but I am not God - embracing that paradox is a key realization of mysticism and myth - and, indeed, even asleep in Dream, where we are the Creator of the dream (the Dreamer), and one or more characters in the Dream, and the Dream itself, which is contained within me, even though I am contained in the Dream ...

Paradox - passing through the world of duality, the physical observed world of opposites (Light/Dark, Up/Down, Masculine/Feminine. Living/Dead, Being/Nothingness), eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil

... mythically speaking.

namaste,
bodhibliss

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

Surely nobody is arguing that we are god here, are they?
That would be a 'yes'.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by Evinnra » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am



An explanation to children how we are ONE with God and yet it is not us who make things sacred, unless we are in continuous connection with what is sacred already.

A little kidney cell woke up one morning and said 'I had a dream that I am a mighty organ in an even mightier body which is part of the entire cosmos. I think I am sacred as all these mighty beings that I am part of are all so wonderful and divine.'
The mighty Kidney awoke to this boastful comment with a smile and said: 'Yes you are indeed part of something sacred like I am, but it does not make us equal to the almighty cosmos, because the cosmos was already living before we came to being and the cosmos will always live. The cosmos created us and made us sacred and we are merely working on our allotted jobs. What you do little kidney cell is sacred as long as you are working in unison with me and what I do is sacred as long as I am working in unison with the body, which works in unison with the cosmos.'
'So I am not sacred after all?' - asked the little kidney cell.
'Yes, you are precious and sacred and wonderful dear little cell, but try not to walk in boots far too big for your size.' -said the mighty kidney, and they all lived happily ever after in the grace and sanctity of GOD.

Well, this is the best I can recall and re-word in English the explanation given a long time ago by my Catholic Parish Priest's to us children. Not too complicated after all, isn't it? Though the Parish Priest used the analogy of the ‘corner of the heart’ I took liberty to use the analogy of an even smaller constituent of a bodily organ. Pehaps what confuses cognitive entities is that cognition together with love is quite capable of revealing to us our one-ness with the Transcendent. Though if God wanted it even a spade could sing his praises, never the less I think our connection with the Transcendent is a personal achievement in unison with God's Grace because we have free will.

Evinnra


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

On 2007-02-11 19:22, Bodhi_Bliss wrote:
I am God, but I am not God - embracing that paradox is a key realization of mysticism and myth - and, indeed, even asleep in Dream, where we are the Creator of the dream (the Dreamer), and one or more characters in the Dream, and the Dream itself, which is contained within me, even though I am contained in the Dream ...
Yes indeed, Bodhi.

Embracing the paradox is a key step in understanding myth.

We say we are contained within reality: yet reality is contained within us, also. For example, the moment I die, my reality ceases to exist. So I can never know a reality separate from myself. But my "common sense" tells me there is a reality separate from me, because I see people dying every day, yet my reality is unchanged.

Krishna shows Arjuna the whole universe contained within him, in his Viswa-Roopa ("Universal Form"). All of time and space are contained within him: this is the cosmic man, the one who has embraced the knowledge "Aham Brahma Asmi" (I am the Brahman - read "God" for "Brahman" here).

This realisation dawns slowly, in my opinion: Deepak Chopra, in his book "How to know God", details seven stages in the realisation of God. Even though I don't agree with all his views, his ultimate God-stage - the "God of Pure Being" - inspired me. Associates who are interested can check out the book:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Know-God-Jour ... 0609805231

In the same way, science also presents us with some concepts which are very easy to explain mathematically (mathematics is the metaphor of science!) but very difficult to visualise. I'll be back with a longer post on this theme, when I have time.

Nandu.

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

SteveC said:

Surely nobody is arguing that we are god here, are they?
Ah - as Clemsy said - the answer to that would certainly be yes. To be quite honest SteveC I am astonished that you could have spent so much time here and not understood that in many cases that is precisely what we are saying.
ergo, if the word "sacred" is to have any meaning, then "sacred" is not created by the observer. The observer can, of course, make something sacred in his own mind, or not recognize that which is sacred, but in both cases the sacred quality does not emanate from himself but is only (mis)understood by himself.
Um - how firm can I make this? No - the response which leads to a belief in the sacredness of something comes from the brain - your brain responds to a situation and experiences a spiritual sensation. Recent scientific work (and I know you have difficulty with science but I can't help you with that) has shown that specific sections of the brain "light up" in experiences which we call spiritual. For example:
In a typical run, Baime settled onto the floor of a small darkened room, lit only by a few candles and filled with jasmine incense. A string of twine lay beside him. Concentrating on a mental image, he focused and focused, quieting his conscious mind (he told the scientists afterward) until something he identifies as his true inner self emerged. It felt "timeless and infinite," Baime said
afterward, "a part of everyone and everything in existence." When he reached the "peak" of spiritual intensity, he tugged on the twine. Newberg, huddled outside the room and holding the other end, felt the pull and quickly injected a radioactive tracer into an IV line that ran into Baime's left arm. After a few moments, he whisked Baime off to a SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) machine. By detecting the tracer, it tracks blood flow in the brain. Blood flow correlates with neuronal activity.
Attention: Linked to concentration, the frontal lobe lights up during meditation

Religious emotions: The middle temporal lobe is linked to emotional aspects of religious experience, such as joy and awe

Sacred images: The lower temporal lobe is involved in the process by which images, such as candles or crosses, facilitate prayer and meditation
Response to religious words: At the juncture of three lobes, this region governs response to language Cosmic unity: When the parietal lobes quiet down, a person can feel at one with the universe (http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/neuro/neuronewswk.htm)
Therefore the human brain experiences that momentary sense of awe. A feeling of something greater, a unification with the universe. It may be triggered by a natural environment or by a man made object (eg a temple or cathedral), but it is still a brain reaction. There is nothing about the object that creates the sensation that is reliant on the existence of any god. The experience has come from the observer. Therefore your next statement is meaningless.
In other words, if you accept the concept of sacred, then you also have to accept the definition that it is from God, and Godly, and not from man.
No, no and no. It is your perception that something comes from god. I personally reject the concept of god, yet I can still have a spiritual experience. Now, at this point, I unfortunately have to take the time to reveal something about myself. In the past I was a lay minister - in fact the head of a christian congregation. I also spent two years of my life as a christian missionary. I experienced "spiritual" experiences on a number of occasions. However I now not only reject the church but I reject the concept of god. yet I still have spiritual experiences - in fact I have them more regularly now than when I was living a "religious" life.

Now I am more open to the spiritual experience that can come in everyday life. I can be driving to work and the way that the sun lands or the way that the forest sways in the wind can lead to a spiritual experience. I can be listening to a great piece of bach and have a spiritual experience. In all of things, my brain responds to a situation, the "god in me" responds to the situation and I feel a part of all of creation. Thou Art That! The god in me responds!

Now I not only have rejected the church and god, but I am in the last stages of a book that directly addresses the journey out of religion in terms of the hero's quest. And that is a common term throughout these forums. The experience of the individual journey and the ultimate realization of the god in you is a common theme - particularly in threads in other sections of the JCF forums. Thus my surprize that you would respond as you did asking if we believe we are god here. The god in you is more real than any distant being the worship of who is supposed to be mediated by some paid clergy whose own self interest is served by the promulgation of their role as intermediaries in one spiritual existence.

Now - could I suggest - out of honour to the original purpose of this thread that any further discussion on this subject be broken out to a new thread. And then this thread can return to its original theme.
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 Dionysus » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Dear Friends, I would like to clarify for myself what the topic of this conversation means. Are we, as Campbell put it, putting new wine into old bottles or old wine into new bottles? There are many whom I find inspiring and eye-opening who are engaging in this conversation and I enjoy reading their posts. However I find that I am constantly having to clarify and define terms, which I thought we were all agreed upon, to others who simply don't get it (yet). Is this an educational conversation or are we attempting to create a mythology that has import to the world we live in NOW. From whom or what, or for whom or what are we attempting to resurrect the myth? I would suggest that people who are engaged in this conversation actually read the works of Joseph Campbell so that we can get operate from a common ground and move this thread forward. I am not interested in trying to adapt the Semitic religious beliefs (Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity or Mohammedanism) to the modern world. Not the "isms" at any rate. I am not denying the value of some of the teachings of these faiths and I am sure that parts of them have a value in the modern world, but the basic thrust of these faiths, in my opinion, no longer apply. Now what is the answer? Do we take a bit of this and a bit of that. Grab big chunks of the Greek perspective(Promethius, now there was a Hero) and synthesize with the beautiful psychological perspectives of the Hindu and Buddhist teachings and try to develop something of relevance to ourselves and others? I really want to know.

Dionysus.
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Post by A J » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Dio,

I am getting this weird sense of deja vu. Have we discussed this topic before?

It seems to me that if we are to ressurect "the" myth, we have to begin by accepting other peoples perspectives as being as valid as our own. Nobody has a corner on reality; we each only have a little piece of it.

I personally feel that for a myth to be real for any individual, one has to actively practice it. I credit Bodhi Bliss and Joseph Campbell for leading me to this insight. It was after reading one of the earlier "Practical Campbell" essays, with Bodhi's explanation of practicing the ritual while "suspending one's disbelief" in order to experience that participation mystique that he wrote of again near the beginning of this thread. For me, as I remember us discussing some time ago, that involved a return to a more liberal form of Christianity. For others, several of whom post here, it meant shifting to an Eastern perspective, finding a better balance, perhaps, by practicing Buddhism, or finding their own rituals, sometimes pulling together the more meaningful bits and pieces from several sources. What is important is the active participation in the practice. For me, this means participation in a community, and involves giving some sort of service to the community, as well as practicing the rituals themselves.

But, again, if we are to ressurect our myths in any real sense, we need to recognize the validity of the myths of other people as being their "pathway to the divine," if I may borrow a phrase from Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori of the Episcopal Church, US. As she said, to not do so "puts God in a very small box."

AJ

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

A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living
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Post by SteveC » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-12 04:01, sladeb wrote:
SteveC said:

Surely nobody is arguing that we are god here, are they?
Ah - as Clemsy said - the answer to that would certainly be yes. To be quite honest SteveC I am astonished that you could have spent so much time here and not understood that in many cases that is precisely what we are saying.
Well, I'm pretty sure that I am not God. <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif">

Is it perhaps "the myth of myths" to think that one is God, and not simply a kidney cell? Myth involves inner and outer worlds, and while I can experience both, I am sure that I am not both. Whereas "godly" makes everything sacred, and unites the inner and outer worlds.

In the context of "myth of myths," it is just as much a struggle to be humble as it is to be a god. It is a paradox either way. To be something small is to say that there is something larger. To be the larger is to say that there are parts that are smaller.

To exist as one with everything then one is no longer a "one."
You can only see the height of a mountain from its valley.


The radical myth towards which the helix aspires is beyond the desire for money or power, yet which has greater returns than all the power and money in the world could not achieve.
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Post by sladeb » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Dionysus said:
Are we, as Campbell put it, putting new wine into old bottles or old wine into new bottles?
This is an interesting question. Do we see a myth as somehow pointing to a means of trying to address the problems we experience today? If that is the case, then perhaps the question becomes - do we think the problems we face today are the same ones faced in the past. I have a feeling that perhaps the global challenges which the world is waking up to right now are a new set of problems. Then I guess we are trying to look at the body of myths we have (old wine?) and address the problems we face today (new bottles?). I would certainly agree that the approach we seek is some type of fusion of the global set of perspectives that is available to us. Given the deep nature of the problems that face us (including the potential to make ourselvews extinct!), we need all the persepctives we can get.
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 Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

One will get tied up in the knots of contradiction if one maintains that language can ever be used to define or explain the transcendant nature of all things.

How can one explain Thou Art That?
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I think Dionysus addressed some very basic concerns.

What is the role of myth in our modern-day lives? And what (if there is one) is the myth of today?

I don't have an answer, but I am continuously searching...as I guess all of us are: even those who deny myth, because that denial itself becomes their myth.

As Campbell said, myth is something to live by. Most people today consider myth as stories of particular religious traditions. It was from this viewpoint that Ms. Heller was arguing that myth should be buried. But Campbell viewed myth as experience, and I guess it's nearest to the truth.

Are we putting old wine into new bottles, or new wine into old? A bit of both, I think.

Bodhi mentioned the Hare Krishna devotees, and stirred up an old memory. It's a Hindi film, called Hare Rama Hare Krishna, a typical potboiler. But it somehow merges the Hare Krishna devotees into hippies, who are portrayed as a bunch of no-good, licentious potheads (this was the popular image of the hippie in India). One superhit song, sung onscreen by a thoroughly stoned gang, went thus:

Oh, take a drag
let the sorrows vanish
and from morn to night sing
Hare Krishna Hare Raam...


Krishna is seen as a man of action in India: the Hare Krishnas' interpretation of him as a licentious God of Love irked the traditional Indian psyche (even though it was justified). In one scene, the hero of the movie admonishes the hippies:

...Oh win over your hearts,
by reading the Gita,
if the heart is defeated,
what does one win?...

...Life is another name for work, don't loaf!...

...Krishna taught the law of karma, you ran away from it...


What I am trying to get to here, is that the reinterpretation of Krishna as a God of Love (and Love alone) was original on the part of the Hare Krishna movement (it has been done before, but they did it afresh). It was a myth that they chose to live by.

Old wine in new bottle, or new in old?

Another thing: just the other day, I visited a bookshop. The shelves were full of a new Jesus Christ: one who married Mary Magdalene and fathered a dynasty. What surprised me is, why this interest in this legend now? The original book "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" which put forth this theory is years old. Maybe Dan Brown has given birth to a new myth of Christ!

Nandu.

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

On 2007-02-12 13:28, nandu wrote:
Maybe Dan Brown has given birth to a new myth of Christ!

Nandu.

I don't think I would give Brown so much credit, Nandu. I think maybe he struck a chord with some ideas that were already beginning to resurface. Women are taking a more and more active role in the church. The female element is growing stronger in society in general. One might say, mythically, that a marriage is taking place in the church. The mask of God is changing, once again. Did this union literally happen? Is that important? We've been saying right here on this thread that it is less important whether Jesus actually lived than that something profound happened in the Middle East about two thousand years ago that changed the world forever. It is the myth, the symbol of the Christ that the religion is based on. Is there a new myth of Christ in the making? It could very well be, but it was happening before Dan Brown's book was published, or the book wouldn't have been given such wide attention.

Just my thought, again.

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

A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living
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