On 2007-02-13 17:33, Ruiz wrote:
...Myth served a purpose when cultures were relatively small. It united the group against other groups. It was necessary. It also didn't have to be true.
Now myths everywhere are breaking down and the different mythologies are clashing with each other; different metaphysical systems are at odds with each other.
...We should rejoice that myth is breaking down! Maybe then we could bring people up to date on the discoveries that science has made and get rid of all the bad metaphysics.
I don't know about rejoicing - I have trouble with the increase in societal disruption, violence, and unnatural death that accompany and are aggravated by the breaking up of mythologies. As Joseph Campbell pointed out thirty years ago, this transition, absent the compass a collective mythology provides, will be a painful period of great ferment, chaos, and violence, as solid ground slips out from under the feet of vast multitudes. Eventually, something new will emerge – but the breakdown is not pretty.
And there’s no reason to believe the breakdown of a mythology will mean the end of myth – it’s never worked that way before. Nor are myths something we can be finished with, as if through an act of will.
Myths are the context of our lives, woven into our being, arising out of our own biology (anthropologist Jeremy Narby even finds evidence of archetypal imagery embedded in our DNA) … and we can’t just choose our biology (consciously click off the God gene, metaphorically speaking).
Burn all books, remove all memories of Greek myth, and yet the Oedipal drama will still play out in the infantile psyche - and it’s hardly possible to live an entire life without once feeling the arrow of Eros pierce one’s heart. The names may change, maybe morph into psychological or political motivations, but in our imaginations, and in our daily experience, heroes still slay dragons, and the gods continue to compel our attention.
You can call it love, or you can call it hormones – but the fact that, say, Richard Dawkins might be able to explain certain hormonal and electro-chemical activity that accompanies such a feeling cannot dispel the feeling we feel. We might pay lip service to science as portraying reality, but it does a mighty poor job of that. One can explain at length that love is an intangible altered state of consciousness triggered by biological reactions, but, no matter how accurate that might be on the blackboard or in the test tube, it does not speak to my experience of love – nor does this scientific knowledge protect those who believe it from succumbing to the irrational act of falling in love.
Today, we call the gods "factors," which comes from facere – "to make." The makers stand behind the wings of the world-theater … This is a new problem. All ages before us have believed in gods in some form or other. Only an unparalleled impoverishment of symbolism could enable us to rediscover the gods as psychic factors, that is, as archetypes of the unconscious … All this would be superfluous in an age or culture that possessed symbols.
Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
Forces beyond ego and intention act upon us, whether we call them gods, instincts, archetypes, or universal organizing principles - and they remain active, even more powerful, when unrecognized. We ignore Mars yet sacrifice the youth of our country, the youth of every country, lay them down at the feet of the God of War even as we pooh pooh his power, scoff at anyone who would take seriously this imaginal being – and yet that impulse, that aggressive instinct and pattern of behavior we identify as Mars drives individuals and nations to collide, with spectacular and catastrophic consequences. When Mars was consciously honored, that energy was recognized and, to a certain extent, contained and limited in his image, stopping short of the annihilation and genocide of our rational, enlightened, post-mythic era.
Denying Mars does nothing to stop that in us which gives Mars life ... and it isn't Mars that is the mythos
, but the underlying pattern of which he is one expression.
Archetypes are not just psychological constructs, but are very real energies that exert considerable power in the lives of individuals and of nations. At the individual level we feel the influence of archetypes - or, if one chooses, “gods” - in our various complexes and neuroses, relationships, and patterns of behavior. It’s as if these archetypes are driven to live life – to take on flesh, so to speak, and engage the world of external phenomenal reality.
On the level of individual psychology this drive is generally satisfied through us, via complexes constellated within us acting as agents or manifestations of specific archetypes, moving us, for example, to follow in love, or start a family. When we resist or repress those impulses the back flow builds until the dam bursts. The archetype then often “takes possession” (think of Hitchcock’s Psycho
as an extreme cinematic example – talk about a “mother complex”).
Archetypes shape and mediate our experience of the external world.
The same is true at the collective level. Myths are expressions of the archetypal dynamics of the collective psyche; these myths often collect around specific historical figures and events (e.g., there really was a Troy, at conflict with various Greek city-states off and on for generations), but it is those mythic patterns that fuel history, and not the other way around. For example, we don’t know if there ever was an Achilles or if he performed the deeds ascribed to him by Homer – but we do know that the frenzied battle rage that possessed him reflects an experience common in battle, reminiscent of the Viking berserkers
– and excavations of Troy’s ruins show this spirit animating conflicts between Trojan and Greek.
Those energies that shape cultures and move societies are the same that shape and influence individual lives. Myth allows us a means of engaging – and containing – those energies, rather than remaining helpless and at their mercy – and an active, living mythology provides a framework that allows the culture to partner with these forces, rather than be the victim.
The archetypes or variants of archetypes in myths and rites speak to the unconscious, which no rational admonition or consolation can reach; in the unconscious they encounter something that is related to them at work in its depths, which they awaken and make into an instrument of the regent within us, a guiding image which can gain power over our individuality and adapts its behavior to that of the archetype.
Thus such archetypes, awakened from their slumber within us, become visible images and effect transformations in us; when called forth by kindred archetypes in myth and observance, they rise up within us and become our guides. Our conscious will cannot create such guides … and this archetype summoned from our depths preserves us; it prevents formless forces from tearing our personality apart or driving it to madness under the pressure of the eternal contents of life, of the destiny that oppresses and threatens to crush us.
Heinrich Zimmer, "The Significance of Tantric Yoga," in Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, ed. Joseph Campbell, p. 7
This, you may recall, is the same lecture from which I took the example in an earlier post of the Balinese myth and ritual of Jumbari
, which is not perpetuated by scripture or priesthood or organized religious structure, but has a life of its own, self-perpetuating, passed down by children to children in rites conducted by children, ages 5 to 11, with no adults present, involved, monitoring, or able to discuss these activities with the children – and Zimmer discussed at the initiatory archetype this ritual myth activates at length.
A mythological image is one that evokes and directs psychological energy. It is an energy-evoking and –directing sign. A mythology is a system of affect or emotional images; these representations themselves produce this emotion or affect.
Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, p. 86
To me, “resurrecting the myth” does not mean studying myth, nor does it mean constructing a new mythology – in fact, the latter is out of our hands. As Campbell aptly demonstrates in the four volumes of The Masks of God
, there is no reason to expect this regularly recurring pattern to stop manifesting itself in history merely because we deny the concept, any more than denying the existence of love (ascribing all to instinct, hormones, and genes) will put a halt to that abstract, irrational experience and its influence in the lives of individuals, and even whole peoples. Some form of mythology will emerge, something of which we only catch an occasional glimmer now and then; I doubt any mythic form will gel in my lifetime, any more than the Christian world view was thought to be the shape of things to come its first few centuries of life.
But in the meantime, “resurrecting the myth” means resurrecting myth in my life. I can’t do it for anyone else, walk another’s path – I can only walk my own. But there are basic experiences I share with everyone, periods of life when I am most clearly exposed to forces that lie in large part outside my conscious control – birth, of course; the often painful physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual evolution from child to adult; sexual initiation; falling in love and marrying; the decline of age (a slope I’m just starting to slide down); and the inevitability and mystery of death. Campbell refers to these as life initiations, common to every human whether Bantu tribesman or Bill Gates – and these initiations are the stuff of myth.
Rather than fighting fate, or resigning ourselves to playing the victim’s role, we can symbolically align ourselves with the archetypal patterns in play, thus moving on a level beyond that of the conscious ego, restoring the harmony between our inner world and the universe that produced us. Ritual provides a sacred place in which to confront these energies, and myth presents archetypal images we can safely engage in that sacred space.
There are many ways to do this, from following traditional paths, participating in sacred ceremonies, to tending to dream. Art also provides a portal into archetypal realms. I’ve offered rituals I perform that make the mythic come alive for me. Others have spoken of the sacred working in their lives – and that, I believe, is how we “resurrect” the myth – through an experience of the sacred.
Of course, if one has experienced the sacred there’s no need to explain – and if not, you can hardly “resurrect” something that has never been experienced, anymore than one would suggest to someone who has never been in love that they “resurrect” love.
However, when I see people in love, I feel stirrings in my own life – and when I see people experience the mythic in their lives, I feel a similar resonance in my own. Hence it follows that whatever I do to nurture the workings of myth in my own life will ripple out to other lives as well.
But given the lack of an active, effective mythic tradition that addresses contemporary realities in western culture, what can one do? Campbell advises we discover our own myth in the images that speak to us, drawn from the myths of all time:
There are mythologies that are scattered, broken up, all around us. We stand on what I call the terminal moraine of shattered mythic systems that once structured society. They can be detected all around us. You can select any of these fragments that activate your imagination for your own use. Let it help shape your own relationship to the unconscious system out of which these symbols have come.
Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, p.86-87
That’s how to “resurrect the mythos.” Of course, skeptics and the larger culture are free to resist, repress, and deny the dynamics of myth, but that will not blunt their effect, as noted in the inscription carved above the door to Carl Jung’s home:
Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit - "Called or not called, the gods will be present."
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2007-02-18 02:32 ]</font>