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  • Gagging on ‘True Doctrine’

    Have you heard the one about the tiger and the goats? Joseph Campbell often shared this fable: a young tiger, raised by the herd of goats his mother leapt into hoping to feed herself and her unborn cub before dying in childbirth, grows up believing he is a goat until being instructed by a passing-by adult tiger to eat meat and discover his true self. Campbell borrowed the story from 19th Century Hindu mystic Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, calling it his “favorite sort of sew-it-all up” story. It’s a classic “to thine own self be true” tale, and has been fodder for countless teachers and religious figures across cultures. All the young tiger needed was the teacher to show him who he really was. I want to call out, however, a couple of nuances in Campbell’s retelling of the story in a 1972 interview (L444: ZBS Interview, 1972, 1:20:00–), that I think invite us to uncover shadows in being learners in relationship to teachers, and what it means to, in the worlds of my educator father, Eugene Melander, who spent a lifetime imagining how teachers can teach and students can student, learn to “self author.” It’s the difference between seeing who you really are and crafting the story that brings you to that awareness; always ongoing, never static, with ownership of your own story and its telling. In Campbell’s 1972 retelling, he describes the elder tiger’s instructions to the young tiger, who doesn’t even realize that he is being perceived as a student, as he drags him by the scruff of the neck to look at his face in a pond. Campbell says: The big tiger looks in and he says, "Now, see, you've got the face of a tiger. You're no goat, you don't have a goat's face. You're like me! Be like me!" And then Campbell, as an aside, adds “That's the guru-style: "Be like me." Not “be yourself.” The elder tiger then shoves meat down the protesting throat of the young tiger, who gags on it. Campbell adds, “And the text says, ‘as all do on true doctrine.’” What an image! While it’s possible to read this as a nod to the difficulties of losing one’s self and one’s ego to the power of capital “T” Truth in the teaching as delivered by the teacher, it also invites us to question the role of doctrine in our own self-authoring. If we gag on the true doctrine, is it really true? Is the teaching, the exhortation to be just like the guru the point of this story? Or is the actual truth in the experience for the young tiger the moment where the nourishment hits his body with a rightness he viscerally understands, and he becomes tiger in that moment? For doctrines, even when well-meaning, are external to us. And sometimes they are flat wrong. By way of illustrating this, I want to share a poem I wrote about a piece of doctrine it took me forty years to stop gagging on, and the gagging stopped only when I spat it out: 40 Years Later I had a realization. Reading a poem about how EB White cried when Charlotte died. And how the mother reading the story had cried. And the children who knew nothing of loss laughed at her crying. But I cried. I cried as a small child reading Charlotte’s Web for the first time. And I have cried all the times I have read it since. It is about compassion, not experience. The ability to imagine with empathy into understanding someone else’s sorrow. And I remember a short story I wrote at 19 about a garden fearing the shears and mowers for a writing class in college. And I loved the professor. I still do. And I cried when he died. But he hated the story. It didn’t fall into the canon of serious fictional literature about unhappy people, and plants didn’t have voices or sentience. It was vapid and childish. Not his words directly. But what he meant, kindly, pushing me to reach higher to drop that for grownup stuff. So I tried for what he said I should want. And it was an exercise in learning to cleverly order words and metaphors. And I couldn’t feel anything any more. And I stopped going to class. I have always felt shame. It was my fault. I was fucking up. I cried then, with him. When I gathered the courage to beg for his forgiveness. And he was kind. And it’s only now, 40 years later. That I realize he should have been begging for mine. That I was begging for forgiveness for abandoning my heart, really. Not his class. For I still hear the voices of the garden fearing the shears and battle with my husband and insurance companies over lawns gone to meadow at my farm. It’s not neglect, I say. But a choice. To let them live so the birds and caterpillars and snakes and voles who ensure we all can live can as well. And I realize that is a story that the world did need 40 years ago, not just me. As we are on the precipice of what happens when humans don’t hear those voices. And something breaks open for me over this. Finally. I am wrong to wait for permission. And I need to tell the stories that are my heart. That I still wait for permission. Far too often. And tell my heart to grow up. And I wonder how many stories we have lost. From everyone told they were doing it wrong. That their hearts didn’t understand. (Melander, 2023, unpublished) How would this fable - and its teachings - empower him differently if the young tiger was invited to find his own taste for what he needed to become all that he was? And what different stories would he be able to tell? About his mother’s sacrifice, his adopted family’s sacrifice, and how both of those were also a part of what made him Tiger? This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 1, and The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Latest Podcast In this episode, Roshi Joan Halifax sits down with Bradley Olson of the Joseph Campbell Foundation. Roshi Joan Halifax speaks to Buddhists and non-followers alike on such universal topics as compassion, suffering, and what it is to be human. Influenced by early experiences as an anthropologist-world traveler, passionate end-of-life pioneer, and her work in social and ecological activism, she eloquently teaches the interwoven nature of engaged Buddhism and contemplative practice. She encourages a wholistic approach to life and training the mind, “that we may transform both personal and social suffering into compassion and wisdom.” Roshi Joan’s personal practice includes creative expression through photography, brush painting, and haiku as explorations in “beingness” and joy. As Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya, her vision for the Zen Center embraces comprehensive Buddhist studies, meditation, service, dharma art, and environmental action as integrated paths cultivating peace and interconnectedness. She knew Joseph Campbell very well. In the conversation, she and Brad discuss her life, her work as a teacher and pioneer of end of life care, and her experiences with Joseph Campbell. To learn more about Joan visit https://www.joanhalifax.org/ Listen Here This Week's Highlights "Is the conscientious teacher––concerned for the moral character as well as for the book-learning of his students––to be loyal first to the supporting myths of our civilization or to the "factualized" truths of his science? Are the two, on level, at odds? Or is there not some point of wisdom beyond the conflicts of illusion and truth by which lives can be put back together again?" - Joseph Campbell -Myths to Live By, p.11 Dynamics of the Unconscious (see more videos)

  • Myths Have Baggage Too

    Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart. As a mother of two, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of their current experience. Teen angst evolves with the challenges of each generation, and storytelling has a way of providing a window of continuity and comfort into these worlds. For that reason, I was drawn to Netflix’s recommendation of Ginny & Georgia, a television show focusing on the relationship of a mother and her teenage daughter. Ten episodes later, with tears in my eyes, I was left wondering why this television show was engrossing me this way. In the show, Georgia flees a childhood of abuse and becomes a mother at age 15. We meet her character as she is finally achieving her vision of the ideal life. Ginny, Georgia’s daughter, is turning 15, the same age Georgia was when she gave birth. As her daughter comes into her own, we witness them struggling to understand one another. Georgia hopes to give her daughter a better life than her own. But Ginny has a completely different experience, drowning in the tumultuous life her mother has created, while attempting to negotiate her teenage years amid the cruelty of American culture. And we, as viewers, are caught up in this tension between mother and daughter. With no maternal role models, Georgia struggles to survive in a system that is not designed to protect her or her children, so she fiercely protects her children at all costs. Her daughter, Ginny tries to understand, but her mother’s fierce love comes with a lot of emotional baggage. The way this show depicts women navigating the dangers of society brings to mind some of the challenges Joseph Campbell acknowledges in Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine. Campbell recognized that many of the “difficulties that women face today follow from the fact that … there are no female mythological models” (xiii). Myths provide frameworks to help us process the human experience. In their absence, we float adrift without an anchor grounding our everyday lives. However, this was not always the case. Throughout the text, Campbell highlights how myths are adapted to reflect current social circumstances, and he cites multiple examples of the abstraction and degradation of female mythic figures. For example, Campbell explains how Athena is a Greek version of an older Mycenaean and Minoan protective snake goddess (136-141). In order to integrate this earlier goddess into the Greek pantheon, Athena is depicted as the daughter of Zeus, a more recent male deity. Artemis, too, is a Greek version of an earlier Minoan goddess or perhaps even Paleolithic (111-113). In Greek myth, she is depicted as Apollo’s twin, who was originally a male deity of the Indo-European Hittites. Artemis is connected to much older mythologies, and the uniting of these two deities as siblings conjoins two different cultures with different value systems: “the god of human culture to balance the nature goddess” (120). And arguably, at least in modern popular culture, Apollo has eclipsed Artemis all together. Myths are fluid, changing to fit the needs of the society. And while transforming ancient goddesses into sisters and daughters helps integrate disparate cultures, it also disempowers those particular goddess figures, at times even erasing them completely. For instance, in the Akaddian myth of Tiamat, who in later biblical traditions is abstracted as the abyss or primordial waters from which creation emerges, “The Goddess is called the Abomination, and she and her divinities are called demons and they are not given the credit of being divine” (87). Mythologies reflect the cultural systems in which we live, and history has not always been kind to women. The absence of female mythological models forces us to forge our own paths. Echoes of ancient powers still reverberate in these abstractions if we know where to look, and Campbell assures us that the task is well within our grasp: “And is it likely, do you think, after all her years and millennia of changing forms and conditions, that she is now unable to let her daughters know who they are?” (xxvi). But what does “telling us who we are” look like when the myths passed down to us have been distilled, distorted, or erased? How do we write new stories when we have yet to dispel the internalization of the stories we’ve been told for millenia? Degradations are embedded in our own stories. Like these goddess figures, we see ourselves as the daughters and sisters of the ones to whom we gave birth. Our myths carry emotional baggage, too. Cultural memory carries stories and it carries trauma as well. Our mothers showed us the protection mechanisms they inherited from their mothers. They told us the fairy tales that whispered warnings. We learned how to build armor to maneuver through spaces that were not meant for us. But ironically, the armor entraps as much as it shields, and these protections are written underneath our skin, like spells binding us from within. I see that struggle in Ginny & Georgia. I see a mother who can’t understand why her daughter struggles to seize the opportunities before her and I see a daughter fraught with internal demons. Desperately attempting to find some way to conceptualize and express the pain she feels internally, Ginny harms herself externally. When Georgia, the mother, realizes this, she begs her daughter “give me your pain, let me carry it.” A wish so many mothers have had for their children. And yet, Georgia can’t carry Ginny’s burden, nor can she fully prepare her for the struggles she will inevitably face. Each generation has to make their own way. We may share a common experience, but our journeys are uniquely our own. As with Georgia’s fierce mother-love, the goddess mythologies women have inherited are fraught with the thorny traumas of the societies that passed them down to us. Much work has been done to fill the gaps left by the goddesses lost to time, but as the daughters before us, we join a long lineage tasked with separating the wheat from the chaff and disentangling the internal knots that bind our ability to step into our own power. To do this, we look for echoes of female power in the eyes of our mothers, the earthly songs of our grandmothers, and the fearlessness of our daughters. And perhaps, we hear whispers in the stories that bring us to tears because, for a moment, we feel seen, we feel a sense of belonging in a world that has not always embraced us. This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 3, and Goddesses. Latest Podcast In episode 6 (orignally released in January 2023), Tyler Lapkin of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and Lonny Jarrett discuss Lonny's career as an acupuncturist, herbalist and teacher. Lonny is recognized worldwide as a leading practitioner, author, and scholar of East Asian medicine. This conversation takes an in-depth look at the Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine, the role of a practitioner, and what it means to see medicine and mythology from an Integral perspective. John Bucher introduces the guests and follows up with commentary about their conversation. Learn more about Lonny at https://lonnyjarrett.com/ Listen Here This Week's Highlights "Pandora is another inflection of the idea of the woman who brings bounty into the world. The later, smart aleck, masculine-inflected story of Pandora—the notion that every woman brings with her a box of troubles—is simply another way of saying that all life is sorrowful. Of course, trouble comes with life; as soon as you have movement in time, you have sorrows and disasters. Where there is bounty, there is suffering." -Joseph Campbell Goddesses, 206 The Center Of The World (see more videos)

  • Why Myth?

    BILL MOYERS TO JOSEPH CAMPBELL: “Why myths? Why should we care about myths? What do they have to do with my life?” CAMPBELL TO MOYERS: “My first response would be, ‘Go on, live your life, it’s a good life. You don’t need mythology.’ I don’t believe in being interested in a subject just because it’s said to be important. I believe in being caught by it somehow or other. But you may find that, with a proper introduction, mythology will catch you. And so, what can it do for you if it does catch you?” When I heard Joseph Campbell say these words in Part II of PBS’ The Power of Myth, I knew exactly what he was talking about, and I’m guessing that many of our readers do, too. Everyone I have met on the myth journey has come to it by a different path,  and has been “caught” by it in a different way. Some had heard the siren call of Skywalker Ranch where Campbell attained Delphic status as a master interpreter of the world’s one great story, the Hero’s Adventure. For them, Campbell studies had a single purpose: to unlock the secret of big budget action adventure moving pictures. For anyone with a screenplay in their Prius the answer to “why myth” is self-evident. Others, just as devoted to Campbell, took the “hero’s journey” as the key to individuation; these were mysteries of the spirit, not of the story conference. Or mythology may “catch you” as a lover of classic literature; it may alert you to a new level of spirituality missing in your relationship; bring you to an understanding of what is transient and what is eternal; or leave you on a street corner without any socks, a card-carrying mystic. Or, as in my case, myth may “catch you” in its most kinetic form, myth as ritual. It was ritual that “caught me.” Like Campbell, I came to myth through the theological complexity of Roman Catholicism. He explains the process better than I can: “I was brought up as a Roman Catholic. Now, one of the great advantages of being brought up a Roman Catholic is that you’re taught to take myth seriously and to let it operate on your life and to live in terms of these mythic motifs. I was brought up in terms of the seasonal relationships to the cycle of Christ’s coming into the world, teaching in the world, dying, resurrecting, and returning to heaven. The ceremonies all through the year keep you in mind of the eternal core of all that changes in time (The Power of Myth, 12). Which partially explains my most outrageous breach of social norms back in Broomall, Pennsylvania, circa 1962. On a day when John Glenn was circling the planet 160 miles overhead, I, too, was making a little orbit in the cul de sac named, synchronistically enough, Glen Circle, circumambulating the neighborhood in a religious procession of my own devising. Why? There is no why. I was “caught,” and here’s how it happened. My parents had transferred me to Catholic school. I never saw it coming. One day, I was a reasonably popular kid in a public kindergarten swapping my slinky for a Davy Crocket cap and the next thing I knew it was all holy water and rosaries. I still managed to meet with my old friends, usually after school in the late afternoons before the lightning bugs came out, before moms called us home. That’s when we compared notes and I learned that my Protestant pals were being subjected to a relentless form of civic paganism in a place without crucifixes on the wall in classrooms where teachers made no reference to God or gods, saints or apostles. No sin. No heaven. No prayers.  It sounded both awful and attractive at the same time. But after a few years, I learned to appreciate the cultural richness in my tradition and I wanted to share it the way I had always shared with my friends, only this time it would not be a Mickey Mantle baseball card still smelling of the bubble gum it originally came with. This time, I would be sharing a ritual practice apparently unknown to these deprived Protestants.  I would demonstrate the principles of putting on a procession. The elements of a good Catholic procession are few. Most important is finding two kids bored enough to want be candleholders. There should be two, for symmetry and to help focus the attention on Mary who would be represented by a statue borrowed from the mantle of our fireplace. I would carry Mary. Catholics sing when processing. Not well, mind you. But apparently that’s not the point.  We sing songs relevant to the ritual act itself, the readings of the day, or in response to special parish events. I could only think of one song that the girls (one my sister, the other her friend Ellen) and I might know in common: “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes…” Except for my choice of hymnody, there was nothing remarkable about our little trinity solemnly marching along the sidewalks of Broomall but rituals are not supposed to be remarkable. As Campbell points out, “Rituals themselves are actually very boring. They go on and on, beyond your secular tolerance” (The Power of Myth, 29). In a bad way, that’s what happened. Ellen’s Dad had apparently been taken “beyond secular tolerance,” when he saw his only daughter participating in objectionable papist rites. He rushed from his little brick house and grabbed Ellen rudely by the arm. Her candle self-extinguished on the median strip where it fell. My sister just stared in wonder. I blew out her candle. “You are never to play with those children again!” I heard the outraged father shout. I was as mystified as my sister, and I can thank my mother and Joseph Campbell for explaining it all to me. MOM: You see, Johnny… Some folks don’t believe it proper to pay respects to statues. JOSEPH CAMPBELL (sixty years afterward and not in person) “… in India it is believed that, in response to the consecrating formulae, deities will descend graciously to infuse their divine substance into the temple images” (The Masks of God, Vol. 1:Primitive  Mythology, 44). Exactly! Somewhere in my teeming nine-year-old brain, I expected the “real” Mary to somehow inhabit the statue since I had gone to so much trouble to do it homage. That is a true ritualist in the making. There was another cosmological issue at play that February of 1962. Mary herself was the issue. And, again, Mom and Joe explained it to me. Mom claimed that some people don’t feel comfortable paying too much attention to Mary. In fact, Catholics are sometimes accused of worshiping the Virgin as if she were some kind of goddess. Joseph Campbell’s far more disturbing view suggests that Mary is indeed a pagan derivative, an iteration of the original goddess, the Goddess of Many Names. She is Annapurna, from the Indian subcontinent; the Egyptian Isis; the Babylonian Ishtar, and the Sumerian Inanna, all “archaic prefigurements” of the BVM, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why myth? Because it raises me high above the doctrinal fray and elevates me to a perspective where the transcultural oneness of humankind is as obvious as if I were looking down from a Mercury spacecraft 160 miles above Broomhall, Pennsylvania in 1962. This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 2, and Myth and Meaning. Latest Podcast In this bonus episode of Pathways, Joseph Campbell answers questions from his lecture on the symbolism of Christianity, Buddhism, European Paganism, and the Arthurian Romances. Listen Here This Week's Highlights "Going back at least nine thousand years to the early agriculture of the Near East and Old Europe, we have a tradition of the power of the Goddess and of her child who dies and is resurrected - namely it is we who come from her, go back to her, and rest well in her. This tradition was carried through the cults of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and down into the Classical world, before finally delivering the message into Christian teaching." - Joseph Campbell - Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine, 8 Four Functions of Mythology (see more videos)

  • Veera Mata Lalita: The Mother-Matrix of the Hero’s Adventure

    Raised with stories of the gallant of Sri Ram who battled Ravana or Sri Krishna, who shielded his people from the incessant rain (caused by the anger of Lord Indra) by lifting the humongous Govardhan Parvat (mountain) in protection, I have been fascinated with the concept of the hero for most of my life. With Campbell’s much celebrated work on the hero as the base, I took to the Vedas, my sacred homeground, to celebrate the very idea of how a hero is personified. The Sanskrit term Veera is how the archetypal hero is referred to, the one who is brave and shines like the sun and in whose radiance we thrive. Veera is the one with the knowledge of being, the adventurer, the boon seeker, who fights and toils for the people. Lord Indra, in the Vedas is mentioned as an exemplar hero, the Veera who slayed the demon Vritra to release the confined waters that he had captured. Vritra tasted dust when Lord Indra struck him with his thunderbolt, Vajra (Rig veda 1.32 n.d.). This imagery echoed to me of the supreme protectresses, the goddesses who have often engaged in fierce battles with demons possessing powerful weapons as well as might, and then have taken charge when the gods couldn’t. Deconstructing the Hero through Janani Mien and Might This was the inception of my voyage to rethink the idea of the hero through the eyes of the Janani, the divine mother-goddess that manifests it all, including the hero. I thought of the divine yoni, the abode of all existences, and Tripura Sundari-Goddess Lalita, was the vehicle of my calling to know the larger Self through her heroic splendor. The call to dive deep and discern the qualities of what makes of a hero and understand the ultimate boon of the hero, Maa Lalita. It is an endeavor to know the feminine as a divine blessing. With a sugarcane, arrows, book, flowers, chalice, conch, noose, a goad in her hands and exuding the divine essence of her three children, the Trimurti (Lord Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), as mediums channeling the universe, she perfectly models the archetypal heroic mien, qualities and aura. Her iconography is symbolic of control, wisdom, beauty, guidance and preparedness that a hero needs, and does, display. Om Sri Matre Namah “... So when you are meditating on a deity, you are meditating on powers of your own spirit and psyche, and on powers that are also out there” (Campbell. Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine, 14). Beholding the magnanimous supreme, Goddess Lalita, the Great Mother, who juggles the dance of creation-destruction-sustenance, the full circle of life, I delve into all her facets in all her glory as the life narrative for mankind. The Divine Womb: The Heroic Matrix- where it all begins… Campbell, speaking with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth, gave yet another interesting take on the act of giving birth as heroic. On how mothers are heroes first, as they are the gateway for their child to become the chosen one. From her unfolds the be all and end of all there is. “The psyche is part of the inmost mystery of life, and it has its own peculiar structure and form like every other organism. Whether this psychic structure and its elements, the archetypes, ever "originated" at all is a metaphysical question and therefore unanswerable. The structure is something given a priori, the precondition that is found to be present in every case. And this is the mother, the matrix, the form into which all experience is poured” (Jung, CW9i, §187). As the life for the life to begin, breathing the cosmos alive, Sri Lalita knows how it all is, how it will be, and how it’s going to be, just like Gaia (Lovelock et. al, Atmospheric Homeostasis by and for the Biosphere: The Gaia Hypothesis). The “realm of the Mothers” has not a few connections with the womb, which frequently symbolizes the creative aspect of the unconscious (Jung, CW5, §182). It makes me think of how if mothers are the first heroes then heroes also emulate her, acting motherly. They take on an unprecedented path as seekers of greater knowledge which helps all as questers with a primal wise experience of life. The Mother-Matrix encapsulates the way of life, the know-hows of survival and maps out the larger good through the chosen one. Raksha-Kari Maayi (the protector)- The Heroic Steer on the adventure Lalita “Sahasranama” (meaning thousand names of the goddess in Sanskrit) sings praises of Goddess Lalita as she describes the charms needed by the hero as the adventure awaits. These charms are gifts of guidance by the guardian to the hero without which, the tasks of the adventure are hard to navigate. As heroic herself, the Great Mother with valor, has already trod the path the hero is to unveil. His journey is one of exploring the powers given by her as aids for the Self-soul and archetypal life escapade ahead. Campbell noted that in the spirit of the venture “against the dragon” the supernatural aid appears as the king maker. The aid not only guides the hero, but is a realization of the heroic Self that equips him to overcome the dragons and demons (Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 63-66). Sarva Shakthi Mayi- all strength: The Quintessence force in the transition to the yonderland To blaze forward, to leave the familiar, to experience the new, what does the hero need?. Campbell answers that it is the purposive heroic strides taken to break free from the monotony of life and rethink our existence. What is this that challenges us and drags us into such strange and novel states? It is our inner mother that takes us to the higher realm, without which the adventure of life would never begin? Goddess Lalita evinces the larger life force, the capacity for heroism. She as the Samharini (the destroyer), the Pancha Krithya Parayana (the five elements of creation, being and destruction), the Vignanasin (obstacle remover), and Twan (manifesting you and me) is the transformative core-creatrix that precincts and gives life to the voyage of the unknown to be known. Thamopaha: Goddess clearing the path of the unknown It's never easy to bridge over to the unknown, the dark, the dangerous or the completely chaotic. Campbell clarifies that the uncharted territory has its own blunders that can be and will be comprehended by the hero despite all his stumbles. Why the hero first? Why does he need to go through this? It’s because he is the one who can achieve the boon of mastering life in its fullness through his own life-giving, renewing energy, which he as an initiate accesses over and over to overcome the falls and stumbles. He is also the archetypal exemplar of knowing how, when, and why to harness the inner strength, to bring light to the darkness. Darkness is not for the hero, who is the pursuer of sunshine. Goddess Lalita is the forerunner of what the hero tries to achieve, to remove the dark clouds and clear the skies of life. She is the primordial inner strength of the wellspring of growth and fertility as boons and so is called Varadha, the boon-giver (The Hero with a thousand faces , 46-52). The Prodigal Return in the Reign of the Hero, Lalita Amba Bhanda! Bhanda! (well done) exclaimed Lord Brahma as a witness to the three boons received by the Asura (demon) from Lord Shiva. Bhandasura caused a Kama-Pralaya (dissolution) and Lord Shambhu-Shiva knew that his defeat awaited him at the hands of goddess Lalita-parmeshvari as the resurgent creation. This is the classic primal resonance of the cyclical pattern of the hero’s adventure. She is the prodigal return, an elixir for the chosen one to follow her footsteps. What we experience here is the magic of the maternal, the hero of the hero who has been through it all, symbolizing our own transcendent self engagement, our own inner connectedness. In accordance with the Sanskrit text, the harmony of the masculine only resides in the feminine as is conveyed in its contingent essence. Only when Sakti fuses with Shiva can he earn the privilege to be a Lord! (Sastrī & Ayyaṅgār, Saundarya-Laharī, 8-9). This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 1, and The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Latest Podcast This bonus episode of Pathways is the audio from a slideshow presentation that followed the lecture that he gave at Skowhegan on July 27th 1987. The lecture was our podcast Episode 27: Artists, Poets, & Writers. Even though we cannot see the slides that professor Campbell is showing, his rich description is able to guide us through the presentation. This was one of the last public presentations that Campbell gave before his death in October of the same year. Listen Here This Week's Highlights “The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, 'Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched. So you’re at home here? Well, there’s not enough of you there.' And so it starts.” - Joseph Campbell - A Joseph Campbell Companion, p.77 Myth As the Mirror for the Ego (see more videos)

  • The Mythic Yonder of Sree Lalitopakhyanam: Self, Life and Living

    As I explore the mysteries of mythology through Sree Lalitopakhyanam, a dedicated Hindu scripture, part of Brahmanda Purana that captures the divine episodes of Lalita devi, goddess, I feel I can access the myriad expressions of the human Self. These are  unique yet universal. I have charted it as an attempt here to tune into the mythic-mystic fantasies of this scripture that speak to me of my inner cosmology and immerse me in decoding its living quality. It became a transcendental, and cathartic, meaning making process for me—giving me the eyes to see the evergreen awe-inspiring knowledge. Let’s walk through it together. Here, I outline the significant episodes before the birth of the creation mother, Lalita devi narrated by Lord Hayagriva (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) to the sage Agastya, consequential to understand devi’s raison d'être, her purpose for being. These episodes from Sree Lalitopakhyanam evoke a curiosity for the numinous, psychological maturation and milestones of knowing the self for me that I share here… An ostentatious Lord Indra was once cursed by Durvasa rishi, a sage who enjoyed the blessings of the goddesses of victory and wealth, and was so deluded by his inflated pride that he refused the garland sent by Lord Rudra. Instead of wearing it, he gave it to his celestial elephant, Airavatha. Seeing this, Brihaspati deva, god then took over the baton to teach Lord Indra how not to behave unrighteously, performing adharma. This was the time when the rule of the danavas, the demons, rose and so the devas had to take the reins back into their own hands to create a just world. Lord Vishnu set up the churn to milk the ocean and gain the elixir of immortality, amrit, for the devas to reinstate their prominence. He even transformed himself as an enchantress Mohini to entrap the asuras, demons who were after the immortality elixir (Rao, Sree Lalitopakhyanam, 6-18). A curse, a boon of immortality, and a battle between the asuras and devas. Reading this in 2024 may seem like a metaverse experience in contemporary language. Such  confusion and contemplation was also dealt with by Joseph Campbell, who tried to understand whether the modern world had become bereft of the numinous (Myths Dreams and Religion, pp.119-133). Like Campbell, I want to focus on rekindling mythic consciousness and opening the abysmal psychological symbolism of the curse, boon, and battle. Self development is attributed to balanced actions, so getting rid of the shackles of a negative self-construct (just like Indra’s pride), as well as the hope-like aspiration for amrit, is transformative for a waking Self. This can be achieved by favoring and balancing the inner alchemical symbols in the battle between the demons and the divine, the asuras and the devas. Sree Lalitopakhyanam then speaks of the portentous birth of Bhandasura after the episode of churning the ocean for amrit. Seeing her husband (Lord Shiva) humiliated at her father’s (Lord Daksha) organized yagna sacrifice, Sati couldn’t take it and sacrificed herself in chid-agni, sacred fire. When Shiva heard of this he marched to the yagna, and destroyed it for taking away his beloved. This was the beginning of Sati devi’s transformation to goddess Parvati. Thereafter an asura was born and could only be decimated by a son of Lord Shiva. As Shiva was in samadhi at that time, the highest meditative state, his third eye got activated and he burned the demon down to ashes. It was only after Shiva-Parvati’s wedding that Chitra Karma-Gananadha (a form or epithet of Lord Shiva) shaped the ashes of the burned demon into a human form and presented it to Lord Shiva. Seeing the renewed human form, he embraced him, taught him the Sata-Rudriya Mantra, a divine chant and conferred upon him his blessings and boons of his desire. He was also given the rule of all the worlds and was gifted the supreme armaments to assist in his battles. This form born of ashes thus became Bhandasura. When Lord Brahma saw this creation, he said well done, which in Sanskrit means Bhanda. This is how he got the name, Bhandasura. Gifted by the mightiest of the mighty, Bhandasura so became unconquerable. This was threatening to the devas and they attempted to stop him by requesting Lord Vishnu to lure him with the erotic charm as Mohini, but that didn't last long, and Bhandasura undertook his mission to weaken the protective shield of the devas in his attempt to conquer the devas and devaloka, dwelling of the gods. But as these shields were created by Lalita devi and were impervious, it reassured devas of their belief in their divine rescuer. Bhandasura’s birth was the beginning of kama-pralaya, the ultimate dissolution which could only be countered by the birth of the devi. The devi was so powerful that she was the protector of the devas and the prana, life of the worlds, and what follows is her birth myth. All devas, in order to pray for their protection, performed a yagna wherein they offered their flesh and limbs into the sacred fire from which emerged the goddess. Different kinds of births, such as the mind, sweat, seed, egg, and womb born were rendered to this homa kunda, a sacred fire pit made to perform the yagna. Lord Shiva Shambhu, too, prayed to strengthen devi Lalita’s powers during her creation so she could battle and defeat Bhandasura. In the sacred yagna, Lord Shiva poured all oceans as offerings like the sacred ghee, clarified butter, to amplify her prowess against the demon and his army. Her birth marked the beginning of the restoration of the divine and along with Kamesvara deva, her partner, she was enthroned to rule Sri Nagara, a city created by the goddess after the ultimate battle. All bodies renounced in the maha-yagna, the divine sacrifice for the goddess, were resurrected after this momentous win and the restoration of the worlds took place thereon. From Lalita devi’s physical being rose the sun, moon, fire, sky, winds, directions, stars, flowers, the past, present and the future; in short, life itself. And so she triumphed, crumbling Bhandasura’s illusional city into dust, reinstating and populating the worlds (Rao, Sree Lalitopakhyanam). Campbell posits that myths are divine stories that offer guidance, realizations, and new perspectives, even a slice of life in the here and now (Myth and Meaning, Conversations on Mythology and life, p. xv). Understanding Bhandasura and goddess Lalita’s mythic origins in this context, I want to bring to light its present psychological manifestations. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” born of ashes and nestled by Lord Shiva, Bhanda’s birth is a representation of the impermanence of life, which helps us dwell on our inward relationship to ourselves (Ronnberg & Martin, Book of Symbols, 728). Bhanda’s birth from ashes, and then being reduced to ashes yet again by the goddess, is a lesson on how impermanence teaches us to give way to adaptive, flexible strategies for personal growth. As Campbell puts it, myth is as nurturing as a bird’s nest and functions as a base for the psyche to actualize, and carve out our own unique journey (Myth and Meaning, Conversations on Mythology and Life, 4-7). The visual of the devi shielding the gods from the demon with barriers, making them stronger each time they were demon attacked, serves as a symbol of strength for us. It helps us deal with the contradictory inner turmoil and to construct a harmony as sustainable as the barriers. From time immemorial agni, fire blazes as a source of consciousness and the all-consuming principle of life. Lalita devi’s birth from the fire of consciousness glows on us, illuminating our light, power, purity and transformation. Fed with the divine, it represents the birth of the numinous in us. This mythic genesis communicates the primary feminine essence of life. This is the mythic recipe for an  energy system that permeates our present thought, action, and feeling. It is the source of our functioning, the source of our life force. (Ronnberg & Martin, Book of Symbols, 82-84) As a woman, I wonder about and reimagine my being through the eyes of goddess Lalita. Juggling many roles in order to flourish and endure, I experience the numinous divine in all the stages of womanhood today, balancing the masculine and feminine voices within as a dedicated effort toward a wholesome, yet complex way.  So when Kamesvara deva is needed by the goddess’s side for her to be enthroned and begin a new world, or Lord Shiva performs yagna to empower the goddess for the battle ahead, it is a metaphor for a path that establishes my inner commitment to psychologically renew myself in preparation for new experiences, fostering creativity and fertility. The notion of renewed worlds understood as the bodily offspring of the Goddess can also be seen as a classic example of the iconography of the symbolic processes of mythology. Its creations are our inherited symbols helping us to experience societies, cultures, people, circumstances more deeply and dream the dream of life onwards. Understood in this way, the mythic realm, the sacred, gods and angels are our Sri Nagari, our divine dwelling grounds that gives us wings to experience the yonder. Let God, God in Us (Campbell, Myths Dreams and Religion, 137). This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 2, and Myth and Meaning. Latest Podcast In this episode, we are joined by Anthony Byrne, an accomplished Irish writer, director, and producer renowned for his work on large-scale international dramas like Peaky Blinders, Lioness, and In Darkness. He has also directed music videos for Hozier, Liam Gallagher, The Smile. And as he says, more importantly, he is a new Dad. In this engaging conversation with JCF's John Bucher, Anthony shares insights into his life and career, revealing the influence of Joseph Campbell on his creative journey. Listen Here This Week's Highlights "From a psychological standpoint – trying to recognize where humanity is, in all of this – one sees everywhere the same symbols, and this becomes then the problem of first concern. And what transforms the consciousness is not the language, but the image; it's the impact of the image that is the initiating experience. If you get the point of mythology and see that what's being talked about over here is what's being talked about over there too, you don't have to quarrel about the vocabularies." -Joseph Campbell Myth and Meaning, 6 Adventure into Depths - Q&A (see more videos)

  • Answering The Call

    “The call often comes at an important moment. Old life values have often been outgrown and a certain sterility has set in. Parsifal’s quest for the Holy Grail was set in motion by the Fisher King’s realm having become a wasteland. Whatever its form, the call awakens the hero to his or her special destiny” (C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology, Inc.) As I write this, the sun is but a ghost of itself above high clouds on this chilly November day. The last of the leaves will soon let go to dance their way to the ground where squirrels and mice rustle through this season’s fall. Soon enough, a blanket of snow will cover it all in Winter silence. The round of seasons has ever been a metaphor for the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth. Winter is the wasteland, intent on stealing your warmth until you become one with its stillness. Until the advent of central heating and stocked supermarkets the threat was very real, and for the many less fortunate it still is. The Call to Adventure dares us to cross the threshold into the Winter Dark to face what has been outside the world of experience we have known, a world which may have become stale and sterile, and struggle our way to a Spring renewal. Joseph Campbell tells us the Call comes in three ways: voluntarily (I think I’ll quit my day job and become a writer!), involuntarily (“I have bad news,” the doctor said.) and by seduction (Their eyes met from across the room. Her life would never be the same.). Often, the one called will refuse to accept the invitation. As Bilbo said, adventures are “nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner” (J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit, 1966)! The known world is safe in its predictability, even if it may not be a cozy, comfy chair in front of the fire. However, in the long run, the call cannot be avoided. As Seneca said, “the fates lead  those who will, those who won't they drag” (from Moral letters to Lucilius, 107), and the longer the refusal the more significant the consequences. Take the otherwise successful high school senior, for example, who stops doing work, usually sometime after the holidays. “I’m so sick of this place!” they complain while making sure they become seniors again the following year. Senioritis they call it, and it’s understandable: high school graduation is a terrifying threshold for young adults to cross, young adults who have been surrounded by the same familiar faces and places for most of their lives. The Refusal of the Call is the result of a powerful impulse to remain in the comfort of the known world. It can also be deadly. The following anecdote came to me while considering where to focus this essay and I rejected it at first as too personal. But then, while walking the dog, which is when I do some of my best thinking, I realized that it was exactly what I should write about because it’s so personal and, importantly, far from unique. One 2004 day in the staff men’s room outside the sixth grade wing of the Upstate New York middle school where I worked, I was shocked to see a blood clot in my urine. In the blink of an eye, I went from “That happened,” to “No. It didn’t.” It was a surprisingly seductive impulse.  I shoved the moment into a small corner of my mind and tried to squeeze it into a smaller and ever smaller ball that could be ignored. It remained, though, like a pebble in my shoe for the rest of the day. I wrestled with the temptation to submit to this denial which, looking back, was the threshold guardian, Fear. We all know stories of those who succumbed to the Refusal of the Call until it was too late, and I realize how easy it could have been to do so myself. But I made the phone call, which may well have been the act that allows me to be sitting here on this chilly November afternoon tapping away on my keyboard. At one point that day I realized where I was. Joseph Campbell had already told me. What’s wonderful about the Hero’s Journey as outlined by Campbell is that it’s not just a common story structure to be found in Star Wars, Watership Down, The Hobbit, The Odyssey and so forth. It’s a common story structure because it is an archetypal expression of the human condition. Human beings create meaning through story and the most important story is the story of our own lives. Everyone reading these words is at one step or another of this adventure, and probably at multiple steps on multiple adventures, because life is often a messy amalgam of nested hero journeys. The schemata make sense of them, and when life is spinning you around and everything is in flux, knowing the pattern of the hero’s adventure places you in the calm eye of the storm. You know you must walk into the storm wall; you must cross that threshold, but you also know the path forward—your path forward—will appear. There is great comfort in this. You are not alone. And while there is never a guarantee of a desired outcome, whatever the outcome is, if you walk the path with integrity and courage, you can embrace it as someone who is now more than you were before the journey began. That alone is a Spring renewal, a rebirth. That alone is a boon to be shared. “We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world” ( Joseph Campbell. The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 18). This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 1, and The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Latest Podcast In this episode Roshi Joan Halifax sits down with Bradley Olson of the Joseph Campbell Foundation. Roshi Joan Halifax speaks to Buddhists and non-followers alike on such universal topics as compassion, suffering, and what it is to be human. Influenced by early experiences as an anthropologist-world traveler, passionate end-of-life pioneer, and her work in social and ecological activism, she eloquently teaches the interwoven nature of engaged Buddhism and contemplative practice. She encourages a wholistic approach to life and training the mind, “that we may transform both personal and social suffering into compassion and wisdom.” Roshi Joan’s personal practice includes creative expression through photography, brush painting, and haiku as explorations in “beingness” and joy. As Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya, her vision for the Zen Center embraces comprehensive Buddhist studies, meditation, service, dharma art, and environmental action as integrated paths cultivating peace and interconnectedness. She knew Joseph Campbell very well. In the conversation, she and Brad discuss her life, her work as a teacher and pioneer of end-of-life care, and her experiences with Joseph Campbell. To learn more about Joan, visit https://www.joanhalifax.org/ Listen Here This Week's Highlights “We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” - Joseph Campbell - The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p.18 The Individual Adventure Q&A (see more videos)

  • Detours and Wrong Turnings on the Path to Wholeness

    I thought I’d focus in this MythBlast on the same quote from Joseph Campbell’s 1969 essay The Symbol without Meaning in The Flight of the Wild Gander that I first highlighted in my February 2021 MythBlast titled Metamorphosis: Dreaming the New Songs. I wanted once again to use Campbell’s words, featuring C. G. Jung, as a touchstone to explore the maturing psyche’s journey: As the researches and writings of Dr. Jung have shown us, the deep aim and problem of the maturing psyche today is to recover wholeness (154). If you’re anything like me, the last few years have often felt like one, big, indistinguishable blur. The essence can be captured in any one of the numerous memes titled: “Leaving 2019, Entering 2022, 2023, 2024” referring to the absolute trainwrecks that both 2020 and 2021 – according to large swathes of the global population – turned out to be. These leaving/entering memes capture how many of us feel: it’s been several l-o-n-g years now. My favorite is the one with an image of John Travolta as Danny from the movie Grease, with Olivia Newton-John’s character Sandy by his side, under the heading of 2019. Both appear blissfully happy, looking fresh as daisies with a wide-eyed innocence, and completely unaware of the worldwide chaos that the following years are to bring. Over the past few years, in the final weeks of December we’ve seen the meme pop up on social media, juxtaposing the 2019 image against the title of the upcoming year with an image of Travolta as Vincent from the film, Pulp Fiction, and this time seated next to Uma Thurman’s character, Mia. Both have an appearance of bone-crushing, beaten-to-a-pulp weariness, looking like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards multiple times over. For me, this meme invites reflection on the year I just lived, and to question if it was more Grease or Pulp Fiction-like in nature? Was I living or merely existing? Thriving or surviving? Full of hope or utterly devoid of it? Did I mostly feel whole in myself, holding a holistic viewpoint of the past year’s events? Or was my mood, countenance, and attitude fragmented like piles of broken glass? At year’s end, was my psyche more shattered, or more unified? Perhaps, with a more meta perspective we could all do with asking ourselves: “Did I/we lean more into my/our wholeness during these last few years? Or did I/we only fracture and divide myself/ourselves further? Or was I/we experiencing both wholeness and multiple fractures simultaneously?” Richard Rohr in Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life describes how “psychological wholeness and spiritual holiness never exclude the problem from the solution. If it is wholeness, then it is always paradoxical, and holds both the dark and light sides of things.” In my 2021 MythBlast I wrote that: Only when the impulse for inner renewal, for psychological and spiritual wholeness, becomes far more preferable to the unbalanced and misguided sense of perfection that once satisfied us, do we move towards the more fully rounded and integrated self. By necessity this brings an encounter with the underworld of our psyche, a descent that often involves the grief of separation, an unraveling or a deconstruction of the old patterned self, and both a breaking down and a breaking open. In the below extract C. G. Jung elegantly describes the necessity of both the breaking down and breaking open that occurs when everyday consciousness intersects with the unknown and unseen workings of the underworld: But the right way to wholeness is made up, unfortunately, of fateful detours and wrong turnings. It is the longissima via [longest path], not straight but snakelike, a path that unites the opposites in the manner of the guiding caduceus, a path whose labyrinthine twists and turns are not lacking in terrors (Collected Works, Vol. 12, 6). If the labyrinthine twists and turns are necessary on the path to recovering wholeness, then maybe these memes can be seen as faithful portrayals of the psyche’s journey in uniting the opposites rather than providing just mere comic relief. Campbell closes The Flight of the Wild Gander with these words: However, not all, even today, are of that supine sort that must have their life values given them, cried at them from the pulpits and other mass media of the day. For there is, in fact, in quiet places, a great deal of deep spiritual quest and finding now in progress in this world, outside the sanctified social centers, beyond their purview and control: in small groups, here and there, and more often, more typically (as anyone who looks about may learn), by ones and twos, there entering the forest at those points which they themselves have chosen, where they see it to be most dark, and there is no beaten way or path (186). So if you’ve started your year in the forest where it’s most dark, with no clear way or path forward, and you’re in desperate need of a metaphorical torch, then picture an image of wholeness that you’d like to use at year’s end to represent your “Finally Leaving 2020-2024, Entering 2025” meme. And then live into and embody this vision of wholeness whilst enjoying all the detours and wrong turnings along the way! This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 2, and Myth and Meaning. Latest Podcast In this episode, we are joined by Anthony Byrne, an accomplished Irish writer, director, and producer renowned for his work on large-scale international dramas like Peaky Blinders, Lioness, and In Darkness. He has also directed music videos for Hozier, Liam Gallagher, The Smile. And as he says, more importantly, he is a new Dad. In this engaging conversation with JCF's John Bucher, Anthony shares insights into his life and career, revealing the influence of Joseph Campbell on his creative journey. Listen Here This Week's Highlights "The deep aim and problem of the maturing psyche today is to recover wholeness" - Joseph Campbell - The Flight of the Wild Gander, 154 Psyche & Symbol - God is not one, God is not many, God transcends those ideas. (see more videos)

  • Questioning Campbell

    These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported man's life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don't know what the guide signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself. (Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Episode 2) Our MythBlast theme for February is “The Message of the Myth,” title of the second episode of the interview series that first aired on PBS eight months after Campbell’s passing. Given his influence on popular culture, many today are surprised to learn Joseph Campbell was little known during his lifetime, apart from a relatively small circle of influential artists, scholars, and readers. It’s The Power of Myth that is responsible for posthumously introducing Campbell and his work to the public-at-large. The six hours of this popular series are distilled down from twenty-four hours of discussions filmed in 1985 and 1986 at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in California, and the Museum of Natural History in New York. This was not Moyers’ first encounter with Joseph Campbell: in the spring of 1981, he invited Campbell to be a guest on two episodes of Bill Moyers Journal. The overwhelming public response to these conversations provided the impetus for a more extended exploration of the aging mythologist and his ideas, before it was too late . . . and the rest is history. MOYERS: So there is in the myth a kind of message from the unconscious to the conscious. CAMPBELL: Right. And it takes only a little training to be able to understand the language of this vocabulary. (Bill Moyers Journal, April 17, 1981) The Power of Myth programs also spawned a companion volume with the same title, edited by Betty Sue Flowers, Ph.D. (Emerita Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, and former director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum). Despite plenty of overlap, The Power of Myth book is not a transcript of the televised interviews; these are distinct, albeit related, works. This is immediately clear from their structure: the PBS series consists of six episodes, in contrast to the book’s eight chapters –– and even those chapters that share the same title as programs in the series include additional and often rearranged content. For example, “The Message of the Myth,” the program that supplies our February MythBlast theme, does not have its own chapter in the companion volume; nevertheless, much of the content from that episode appears in the book’s first two chapters (“Myth and the Modern World” and “The Journey Inward”). Betty Sue Flowers faced a formidable task editing the book. Where Bill Moyers was able to directly engage Campbell, she instead engaged the material generated from that collaboration, though their goals were the same: to create a platform that allowed Campbell to convey “the message of the myth.” While the book’s themes and much of the content overlap with the broadcast interviews, the questions have been moved around and many of the responses on video broken up, rearranged, and spliced together with bits and pieces taken from other episodes, as well as material that did not make it onto the screen. The result is more than just a transcript; it’s a new work, created from the same raw material, that complements rather than duplicates the PBS series. What draws my interest are the editorial choices that lead to such differences between the video and print versions of the Power of Myth interviews (hence my title: “Questioning Campbell”). Books that Joseph Campbell authored during his lifetime are essentially solo efforts; he alone determined how best to convey the message of the myth. Interviews, on the other hand, are collaborative efforts between interviewer, subject, and often, after-the-fact, an editor. This is more than just a passing fancy, given my role as editor of this month’s featured title, Myth and Meaning: Conversations on Mythology and Life, the most recent addition to The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell. Sourced from 34 relatively obscure print and audio interviews over the last twenty years of Campbell’s life, along with 10 lengthy audience question-and-answer sessions following lectures, this is a “big picture” survey, gathering together bits and fragments of Campbell’s thoughts from many different conversations and blending those fragments into one whole. The fifteen years spent compiling and editing this work offered insight into the different kinds of questions (and questioners) Campbell encountered. Of those sources, a handful are live radio interviews that aired one time on one or another local station as much as half a century ago, with no opportunity for editing before broadcast; there is a sparkle and spontaneity to these exchanges that comes through even very fuzzy audio. Others are local newspaper articles written by a reporter assigned to interview Campbell during a book tour, who may or may not have known anything about myth, or what to ask (in such moments, Campbell skillfully pivots away from generic queries, answering instead the unasked questions). And then there are skilled interviewers who have done their homework and are willing to dive deep, allowing Campbell the time and space he needs to thoroughly cover a subject; a few of these, however, also have their own thoughts to share, and questions sometimes morph into speeches longer than Campbell’s response. Sources also include a few lengthy taped sessions where only a small portion of the recorded discussion made it into print, along with two detailed transcripts of interviews that remain wholly unpublished, all providing insights and observations no one has seen before now. But my favorite sources are Q & A sessions with audience members, regular people rather than journalists, motivated to understand Campbell’s work and its relevance to their own lives. Their sincerity and desire to learn delighted Joe, which comes through in his replies. My challenge was to sift through this wealth of material, extract the gold, and meld the results into one seemingly seamless conversation. Naturally, it was essential to eliminate repetition, especially on topics Campbell frequently addresses. For example, he would often “set the stage” by providing a description of the four functions of mythology before launching into a more direct response to an opening question. It wouldn’t do to bore the reader with eight iterations of the same concept; nevertheless, having access to so many versions did offer considerable flexibility, allowing me to weave the best from each into the conversation. At the same time, many of Campbell’s lengthy responses tended to cover multiple topics tangential to the specific point of an interviewer’s question, so it wasn’t unusual to discover several sentences in one answer that could serve as the perfect coda to an interrupted description culled from a completely different discussion. Given that, I opted to compose a truly syncretic work: tickle out the constituent ideas, break them apart, and then braid them together to form a comprehensive, dynamic reflection of Campbell’s mythological perspective, taking care not to dilute his meaning or present his ideas in a scattershot pattern. No wonder the process took fifteen years! After early efforts kept hitting a brick wall, what made the most sense was to discard the original questions and then sort Campbell's comments into separate "bins," or categories, based on the central theme of each passage. Some paragraphs could find their way into more than one bin; for example, a discussion of the Bronze Age Goddess might include references to the emergence and development of agriculture, so could fit into two different bins; much later, I'd have to decide which category fit best, or whether it was possible to split the comment into separate statements on separate subjects without doing damage to Campbell's intentions. Of course, trying to combine insights from so many different conversations over so many years into one unified text could have come across as forced and disjointed. I believe I successfully resolved this conundrum by composing new questions to help stitch these many discrete pieces together. Of course, the focus of Myth and Meaning is wholly on Joseph Campbell and his ideas; the questions merely serve to get us there. Questions are generally brief and suggested by the material, or what might be missing from the material, thus bridging gaps and helping Campbell’s comments move gracefully from point A to point B to point C. The questions provide a sense of continuity and internal cohesion, serving as the strand on which are beaded Joe's observations. Whether new to Joseph Campbell’s work, or longtime aficionados, I trust readers will be pleased with the results. Hearing the song that is beyond that of your own individual life cycle is the thing that opens you to wisdom. You can hear it in your life, interpreting it, reading it, not in terms of the calamities or boons of your individual existence, but as a message of what life is. (Joseph Campbell, Myth and Meaning, 16) Find out more about what Campbell means by “the message of the myth” by delving into one or all of these works. You should be able to purchase the hardcover edition of Myth and Meaning at your local bookstore, as well as any of the usual online platforms, or by downloading the Ebook directly from JCF.You can order the paperback of The Power of Myth here (JCF receives a small percentage of the sale price when purchased through an Amazon affiliate link). And all six episodes of Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers can be viewed for free on JCF’s YouTube Channel. This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 2, and Myth and Meaning. Latest Podcast In this episode of Pathways (the final full episode of season 3), Joseph Campbell speaks about similarities in the symbolism of Christianity, Buddhism, European Paganism, and the Arthurian Romances. Host Bradley Olson introduces the episode and gives commentary after the lecture. Listen Here This Week's Highlights "Hearing the song that is beyond that of your own individual life cycle is the thing that opens you to wisdom. You can hear it in your life, interpreting it, reading it, not in terms of the calamities or boons of your individual existence, but as a message of what life is." - Joseph Campbell - Myth and Meaning, p.16 All the Gods are Within Us (see more videos)

  • Homo: The Story-Telling Animal

    “We were not new. They were. Sapiens are just the improved model of Homo. Erectus was the first to journey. They were the original imagination-motivated travellers.” ---Daniel Everett (How Language Began: The History of Humanity’s Greatest Invention, 48) As we all know from Greek Mythology, Prometheus was the Titan and Creator God who stole Fire from the Olympian Gods and gave it to the benefit of humankind. What is often not recognized, however, is that the treasured Promethean Fire that made us human first came from the Goddess Athene, who “taught [Prometheus] architecture, astronomy, mathematics, navigation, medicine, metallurgy, and other useful arts, which he passed on to mankind” (Robert Graves, Greek Myths: Vol. I, p. 141). Athena was the source of the technological and scientific knowledge of the day, already mediated through the collective activity of Zeus as the principle of established social order among homo sapiens. The relationship between Prometheus and Athene has given rise to an abundance of mythic speculation. There is even a suggestion that the Titan and the Goddess had, at one point, a love affair. What we can say with more certainty is that Prometheus was there in attendance to the birth of Athene. He assisted Hephaestus, another Fire God, in the procedure of splitting open the head of Zeus “from which Athene sprang, fully armed, with a mighty shout” (Greek Myths, 51). As we recall the myth, Zeus fell into this state of pregnancy after swallowing the Goddess Metis, who was herself made pregnant by Zeus. The old fear that haunted Olympian lineage, punctuated by the image of a castrated Chronos, came back to Zeus. For it was prophesied that Metis would give birth to a son that could depose Zeus, just as he had done with Chronos, and Chronos Uranus. The great fear of castration at the heart of a patriarchal lineage is indicated here in the powerful connection between Athena and Metis. Although Athene thenceforth became branded as her “Father’s daughter,” she was fully functioning as herself within the new patriarchal order established by Zeus. The Titaness Metis, daughter of Okeanos and Tethys, was the original figure of archetypal wisdom. She was one of the Okeanides, a colossal sea-nymph, “Titan-goddess of good counsel, planning, cunning and wisdom” who “hatched the plan through which Kronos (Cronus) was forced to regurgitate his devoured children” (theoi.com). Metis thus played a crucial role during the great war of the Titanomachy, when the Olympians fought against the primeval order of the Titans. This tactical wisdom in war passed over to Athene, who thus carries her mother’s legacy into the patriarchal era. Even the ploy to steal the Fire back from the Olympians was possible only because of Athene. It was she who helped Prometheus gain access to the halls of Olympus through the back door. Only then could he steal a glowing piece of the Sun’s Chariot, wrap it in the pith of a fennel-stalk, and bring it back to humanity, thereby achieving general acclaim. Although Prometheus is the poster boy for human knowledge and inventiveness, a closer reading of the mythology can show a slightly different meaning. From the angle of the Goddesses, we can see the chthonic and tactical wisdom of the Goddesses irrepressibly pass through Zeus, from Thetys to Metis and finally Athene, before landing into the thieving hands of Prometheus as the vaunted “archetype of human existence” (Kerényi). Prometheus was not the Apollonic Hero that so enthralled the romantic period. He was a wily trickster figure and not the figure of an ideal humanity raised to the Divine. It was Prometheus’s treachery that provoked Zeus into punishing humans “by withholding fire from mankind. ‘Let them eat their flesh raw!’ he cried.” (The Greek Myths Vol. I, p. 141). Before Prometheus had to steal it back, humans already had fire at their disposal. Prometheus was not the Apollonic Hero that so enthralled the romantic period. He was a wily trickster figure and not the figure of an ideal humanity raised to the Divine. Although some will say it was originally Zeus, others insist it was Prometheus, who first gave fire to humanity, the fact remains that “humans” (hominins) have been using fire for well over a million years. Humanity had fire even before we became “human” (sapiens). If there was ever any fire theft, it did not come from some Olympian height but from the savage earthly origins of homo erectus and its kin, the first creatures on earth to use and control fire. These fellow humans, you might say, were entirely enveloped by the wisdom of the Goddess Gaia. They would fit “the mood […] of Mother Goddess thinking” where there is a perfect sense that “we are one with the deity” as Campbell says in Goddesses (228). These distinguished hominins not only possessed fire in the literal sense, they also possessed the Fire of the human mind, or as Daniel Everett argues, “Humanity’s Greatest Invention”: the symbolic power of Language (logos). Prometheus appears more like a propagandistic figure for sapienkind, appropriating the goods and discoveries of others as our own. For we did not invent fire or hunting and cooking technologies. These fundamental homo skills, which point to the use of language and its higher functions, are already present with homo erectus and its kin, who are the true Promethean figures of humanity as we know it today. We were not the first storytellers, they were. Theirs were the first conversations on earth. With them, the faculty of human language first emerged as a multi-dimensional symbolic order independent of sense perception. And Fire, both literal and symbolic, was their supreme invention. MythBlast authored by: Norland Tellez is an Artist and Teacher with over 25 years of experience in the animation industry. He graduated from CalArts in 1999 with a degree in film animation, while training and working at Walt Disney Studios, Turner Feature Animation, and Warner Brothers Feature Animation. As a Writer and Director, Norland has produced award-winning educational properties in Once Upon a Sign mini-series which features deaf actors using American Sign Language. As a teacher of Life Drawing and the animated arts, Norland has taught at CalArts and Santa Monica Academy of Entertainment and Technology, as well as AIC-LA. Norland completed a Masters and Doctorate degrees in the study of mythology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2009 with a dissertation on the Popol-Vuh, a classic of Mayan mythology. This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 3, and Goddesses. Latest Podcast In this episode, Trudy Goodman speaks with Tyler Lapkin of the Joseph Campbell Foundation. One of the earliest teachers of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Trudy taught with its creator, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the MBSR clinic at University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1983. In 1995 she co-founded, and is still the Guiding Teacher at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, the first center in the world dedicated to exploring the synergy of these two disciplines. She was an early adopter and now smiles seeing mindfulness everywhere. In the conversation today, Tyler and Trudy discuss her life, meditation, mindfulness, and her perspective on the famous Campbell quote, "Participate Joyfully in the sorrows of the world". To learn more about Trudy visit: https://www.trudygoodman.com/ Listen Here This Week's Highlights "There is one bit of evidence earlier [of mythological thinking], and that comes from the period of Homo erectus (before Homo sapiens, before Neanderthal man) about 500,000 B.C. from the River Thames. A hand axe that’s very long, too big to use, but is symmetrically beautiful. This is what Robinson Jeffers called “divinely superfluous beauty,” and is the first signal we have of a tool that’s not simply a practical tool, but something that is a beautiful, beautiful piece of stone. No animal would do a thing like that. The only thing you can guess from it is for a ritual of some kind . . ." -Joseph Campbell -The Hero's Journey, 87 The Mythic World of the Navajo: The Vision of Black Elk (see more videos)

  • Science May Sometimes Blind Us to What We're Mything

    Sometimes science can blinker us to what we’ve been myth-ing. How can you know what you already knew? When the now becomes new, that’s how. For instance: I’ve enjoyed annoying my colleagues over in psychology for some decades now by reminding them that they are, technically and by definition, engaged in a science (“-ology”) of the soul (“psyche” in ancient Greek). They don’t always think that’s funny. Sometimes the great success of our scientific approach to the world blinkers us with a set of cultural lenses that can keep us from coming to know what we already knew, and keep us from knowing it in new ways. Like this: when it comes to the psyche we might feel smugly moderne, but the Indus Valley civilization will always be a few thousand years ahead of the West when it comes to thinking about the soul. What “the West” once understood as superstition comes back to us now as a rather advanced, and useful, description of human psychology. Kundalini yoga. I’ve dipped my toes into contemporary psychology and have a pretty good grasp of Jung and Freud and Skinner, but none of them have ever been more useful to me as a way of understanding my fellow human beings than Campbell’s interpretation of the first three chakras in the kundalini system. If you need a touchstone, imagine these symbolic representations as a prefiguration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (check out the video of Prof. Campbell’s lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG5Ml82A3vA). Now, of course, we’re accustomed to hearing New Agers talk about “balancing their chakras,” glowing mystical orbs floating in the candy box of contemporary esoterica, but fixating on the woo woo of occult glamor can distract us from the useful implications these ancient observations have for real life in the twenty first century West. What “the West” once understood as superstition comes back to us now as a rather advanced, and useful, description of human psychology. Kundalini yoga. The system starts at the base of the spine with chakra one. This is where we find a concentration of the psychological complexes associated with our instinctive processes: the reflexive clinging to what we believe, rightly or often wrongly, is required for survival. Campbell’s insight is that this can be represented symbolically by the idea of western dragons. Now western dragons are well-known hoarders – unlike Asian dragons which represent the fullness of prosperity in life – and they famously hoard two things in particular: gold and virgins.  Here’s the key: these are two things for which dragons have no use whatsoever. Even as a youngster reading The Hobbit I remember wondering what it was, exactly, that Smaug found so compelling about hoarding gold. It’s shiny, but you know something else must be going on there. You know people like this – sometimes it’s ourselves. We cling to things out of reflex, very often things we don’t truly need or even want. And it is possible, for many people, to go through their entire lives at this level. It is a rather wonderful explication of the role tanha, craving or desire, plays in Buddhist analyses of suffering. If we’re able to resolve or sublimate these impulses, we find ourselves ready to confront chakra two: sex. This encounter typically occurs as we move from childhood into adulthood. After freeing ourselves from the reflexive clinging to what we believe we need for survival, sex is usually the next set of complexes that confront us. While just as psychologically fraught as the fears that characterize life lived purely for survival, sex is a lot more fun. Addictive, even. I’ll leave you to fill in your own examples of people stuck at this stage of their spiritual or psyche-ological development. I suspect this set of complexes is common to all of us – and we all know people who never quite manage to get further along in life than this but, if you do, you end up immersed in the complexes of chakra three: a fire-in-the-belly for worldly success. Chakra three is, appropriately, at the level of the belly. Looking back you can trace this developmental pathway in most humans: childish fears about life which, when conquered, allow us to migrate into a time of sexual awakening and preoccupation that in turn eventually gives way to a sense of social responsibility, family life, career, and attention to the financial and political power structures that govern our adult lives. These first three spheres of human development characterize the world of daily experience: navigating the psychological impulses surrounding fear, sex, and social interactions. It’s where most of us live most of the time.  Let’s add one more chakra for some perspective. Chakra four, at the level of the heart, is characterized by compassion – the ability to experience the suffering of others. Achieving a grasp of chakra four is generally the stated goal of most of the world’s religions and you can find plenty of evidence for the psyche-ological insight this hierarchy of complexes provides, but here’s the easiest way to think about it: as compelling as any one of these psychological complexes might be for someone, they’ll find that the next level up is even more compelling. Fear is trumped by the desire for sex and sex can be trumped by the desire for worldly power – and, most remarkably when you think about it, the desire for worldly power is very often trumped by compassion for others. The wealthy will often walk away from their source of power, wealth, and self-validation to commit themselves to the welfare of others. That’s exactly what history describes as a religious awakening. But at this point we move into rather more rarefied psyche-ological development.  Saints are more difficult to understand than those committed to business. as compelling as any one of these psychological complexes might be for someone, they’ll find that the next level up is even more compelling. Fear is trumped by the desire for sex and sex can be trumped by the desire for worldly power – and, most remarkably when you think about it, the desire for worldly power is very often trumped by compassion for others. But, contributions like these, from what we often characterize merely-as-myth can help us fill in exactly what we were myth-ing – and makes what we know, (k)new. Thanks for musing along. MythBlast authored by: Mark C.E. Peterson, Ph.D. is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Washington County and past president of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture (ISSRNC.org). Philosopher, gadfly, poet, cook, writing along the watermargins of nature, myth, and culture. A practitioner of taijiquan and kundalini yoga for over 40 years, Dr. Peterson is also a happy member of the Ukulele World Congress. This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 4, and Pathways to Bliss. Latest Podcast Joseph Campbell speaks at the University of Arkansas, in 1973, discussing personal myth and the life of the soul. Host, Brad Olson, offers an introduction and commentary after the talk in this episode of the Pathways podcast. Listen Here This Week's Highlights "What the virgin birth represents is the birth of the spiritual life in the human animal. It has nothing to do mythologically with a biological anomaly. In the Indian kuṇḍalinī system the first three cakras are our animal zeal to life, animal erotics, and animal aggression. Then at the level of the heart there is the birth of a purely human intention, a purely human realization of a possible spiritual life which then puts the others in secondary place. " -Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine, 258. The Radiance Behind All Things (see more videos) Subscribe to the MythBlast Newsletter

  • Love & Marriage: Roses & Thorns

    When it comes to love and marriage I have to say that, on a personal level, myth and metaphor have done me more good than anything else and, especially, Campbell’s observation: “Marriage is not a love affair.” (The Power of Myth: “Sacrifice and Bliss”) That is still the best advice I ever received, or ever heard, about how to keep a marriage working well. –but, apart from being a useful reminder that a good marriage depends on a good relationship (e.g. take out the garbage, empty the dishwasher, rub her feet, occasional roses), love and marriage are a useful bridge to grasping the relationship between myth, metaphor, and real life. Here’s what I mean. Campbell once noted that understanding life isn’t as important as having the experience of living a life. It is equally true that many myths hover just beyond being fully meaningful–until, that is, you’ve had the experience of whatever the myth, or the metaphor, is pointing to. I have a favorite example. Early on in life I discovered that one of the best guarantees of a happy long-term relationship was “random acts of flowers.” I confess this is a bit cliché, but there is no doubting the efficacy of random (and persistent) small gestures of love. To this end I would periodically stop by the local grocery store on the way home from work, rummage through the bucket of roses typically found in their refrigerated flower case, pick out a good one, and then leave it somewhere in the house to be discovered later: under a pillow, in the microwave, in her sock drawer. It is always a good idea.  Just saying. And then one day…. I’m on my way home, and I stop in at the grocery store to pick up a single rose. Digging through their selection, I discover that every rose is missing its thorns. I’m sorry, but a rose without thorns on it just doesn’t work. “Hmm,” I think, “this won’t do. The metaphor requires thorns.” At which point, the fourteen-year-old assigned to stock the flower section comes over. “Can I help you find something?” she asks helpfully. “Yeah, thanks,” I reply. “I can’t find a rose in here that still has thorns on it.” “Don’t worry,” she reassures me. “We always cut the thorns off.” I protest, “I see that, but I’m looking for a rose with thorns.” Her face squinches up with confusion. “Why would you want thorns on your roses?” “It’s a metaphor,” I answer. “How is a rose a metaphor?” she wonders. [By the way, as a matter of metacommentary, do you see what an excellent question that was?  Just wait.] “Well, there’s the beautiful and intoxicating scent of the rose, the delicacy of the petals, and then you have the thorns…you know, to remind you about the rest of it.” “The rest of what?” she persists, still confused. At which point the idiot assistant manager comes over and says, “Uhhh, April? Is there a problem here?” I interrupt him. “No, no problem. She was explaining why there aren’t any thorns on the roses.” “Oh, don’t worry,” he croaks, misunderstanding the situation and turning his assistant manager’s irritability on the fourteen-year-old. “We cut the thorns off right away, you know, for safety–April? did you forget to cut the thorns off??” “No, he wants a rose with the thorns still on it.” Deep furrows appear on the assistant manager’s face. “Why would you want thorns on your roses?” he queries. “It’s a metaphor,” I insist. “It’s a metaphor for love,” I repeat, as gently and slowly as I can. And then the fourteen-year-old asks the Best. Question. Ever. “Why would anyone want thorns on their love?” See?  Turns out the fourteen-year-old is a wizard. The assistant manager scoffs at what he takes to be the ignorance of her question–which probably tells us everything about assistant managers. “Hey, that is exactly the right question,” I say. “Love has both a flower and thorns, so if you’re looking for a metaphor, you’ll need both of those.” I was going to follow up by quoting something from Campbell on the Grail Romances like “the only thing that can cure the pain of love is the thing that causes it,” but the assistant manager was already too confused. You’re probably ahead of me here, so let me cut to the chase. Here’s the interesting part: why didn’t the fourteen-year-old know that a rose, if it’s to be a metaphor for romantic love, needed thorns? Answer: because she hadn’t experienced romantic love yet. Only after we’ve had the experience toward which the myth is directing us does the myth become meaningful. What’s required to understand a metaphor is the experience of whatever the metaphor is a metaphor for. The same is true of myth. Only after we’ve had the experience toward which the myth is directing us does the myth become meaningful.  Before that it’s just an interesting story; once we know what it means, it puts our lives into a new and richer context. Once you’ve been in love, you know full well why a rose needs thorns to be an accurate, adequate, meaningful metaphor for love. I hope the fourteen-year-old gets the chance. When I go through this example in class I typically finish up with some Shakespeare, who provided a lot of metaphors in poetry I didn’t understand–until I’d fallen in love. This also taught me just how sophisticated Shakespeare could be and how, like mythology, it is most often an experience that reveals the truth of things. I’ll just leave this here. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138: When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies, That she might think me some untutored youth, Unlearnèd in the world’s false subtleties. Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, Although she knows my days are past the best, Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue: On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed. But wherefore says she not she is unjust? And wherefore say not I that I am old? Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust, And age in love loves not to have years told. Therefore I lie with her and she with me, And in our faults by lies we flattered be. Here’s a brilliant walk through of the sonnet itself and, as a public service, here’s the best ever analysis of Shakespeare’s work from the BBC’s Playing Shakespeare. Thanks for musing along. MythBlast authored by: Mark C.E. Peterson, Ph.D. is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Washington County and past president of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture (ISSRNC.org). Philosopher, gadfly, poet, cook, writing along the watermargins of nature, myth, and culture. A practitioner of taijiquan and kundalini yoga for over 40 years, Dr. Peterson is also a happy member of the Ukulele World Congress. This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 5, and Romance of the Grail Latest Podcast EP 11: Kundalini, The Serpent Power Joseph Campbell speaks at the Asia Society in New York City on November 30, 1967, discussing the kundalini and the relationship between yoga and depth psychology. Host, Brad Olson, offers an introduction and commentary after the talk in this episode of the Pathways podcast. Listen Here This Week's Highlights “But from a psychological standpoint—trying to recognize where humanity is, in all of this—one sees everywhere the same symbols, and this becomes then the problem of first concern. And what transforms the consciousness is not the language but the image; it’s the impact of the image that is the initiating experience.” -- Joseph Campbell,  Myth and Meaning, 6 The Great Goddess (see more videos) Subscribe to the MythBlast Newsletter

  • Re-Imagining Love into Marriage

    The past decade, I've been a part of creating over 200 weddings. And that surprises me a bit. While I believe in romance and love as an artist, a scholar, and a human being who has been relatively happily married for almost thirty years, I have never been fully convinced that weddings or marriages were inherently good ideas. In most cultures worldwide, monogamous marriage has been primarily a social and economic construct that strengthens patriarchy, frequently casting women as secondary, as lesser, and often ultimately as a form of property. This perception of marriage centers procreation and strengthens reductive ideas about gender and gender roles that become self-perpetuating and actually don’t serve anyone particularly well, as I wrote about in a MythBlast last year. Current wedding ceremonies still echo traditions from ancient Greece when marriages were first, in Western culture, identified as a state-sanctioned benefit to the public interest. Wedding partners were chosen by the kyrios, guardian of the bride, usually the father. Potential suitors would show off their plumage with extravagant gifts, feasts, and games, and the victor and kyrios would then perform a ritual engysis, literally a “pledging into the hand,” where the two men would make a commitment to the marriage over a handshake. The woman being pledged wasn’t even in the room. Then, as women stepped into marriage, Hera as the archetypal image of wifehood was hardly an encouraging exemplar. Seduced by her brother Zeus in the form of a cuckoo (there’s a metaphor!), she got her version of a Big Fat Greek wedding that women are supposed to want, but then was continually condemned to rebelliously but often ineffectively stand on the sidelines as Zeus romped through affairs and seductions. In an institution defined by the importance of offspring, even bearing children became a place of competition; in revenge for Zeus’ creation of Athena, Hera bore Hephaistos without a father, and Zeus threw him to earth, crippling him. In The Iliad, Homer describes her character as “not of a very amiable kind, and its main features are jealousy, obstinacy, and a quarreling disposition, which sometimes makes her own husband tremble”(i. 522, 536, 561, v. 892. William Smith, ed. A New Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology, and Geography). In pop culture and media, wives are frequently still buffooned this way: the old ball-and-chain who nags and talks too much, gaining power by needling and conniving. As I work with couples who are optimistically seeking wedding rituals and meaning that can set the stage for a marriage that reflects their aspirations together and as individuals, they most often instinctively recoil from these echoes, but aren’t sure how they might supplant them. An entire industry has risen from this uncertainty, seducing couples into perceiving weddings as performative, gigantic overblown selfies, which in their own ways echo the extravagance of Greek suitor-competitors and the consolation prize of a grand wedding designed to impress observers. In spite of how ubiquitously it sits in our collective imagination in the West now, the idea of love being required for marriage is a remarkably new idea. In spite of how ubiquitously it sits in our collective imagination in the West now, the idea of love being required for marriage is a remarkably new idea. Emerging out of the courtly love longings of the medieval troubadours and trobairitz (for whom love and marriage were distinctly not intertwined), it wasn’t until the 18th century that society began to encourage young people to even consider romance as an antecedent to marriage. Interestingly, in the core definitions of kinds of love in the ancient Greek imagination, there isn’t an delineated image for love between married partners.They include: Eros, erotic love Agápe, unconditional love, primarily of god Philia, affectionate love between equal compadres Storge, the love between parents and children Xenia, the love of hospitality Philautia, self love, which can be either positive or negative In 1973, in his book Colours of Love: An Exploration of the Ways of Loving, psychologist John Alan Lee made a valiant effort to broaden these qualities, including borrowing the word pragma as an image to evoke the love between long-time partners. In spite of its eager adaptation by many in the psychological community, there really isn’t much evidence that the Greeks utilized the word in this way. It’s also problematic etymologically, pulling from the Greek pragmatikos, or business-like, which holds layers of its Renaissance connotations of being meddlesome or impertinently busy. What a dreary way to imagine long-term love! How then, might we re-imagine love into marriage? How can we hope to touch the essence of the bliss and the pain of an enduring love such that it amplifies our multitudes: of who we are, of how we love, of how we choose to live into that love? I think the answer lies in two ideas: First, rather than trying to narrow what a long term love might look like to a single word or idea, we can instead understand ongoing love of a partnership as an intertwined dance of all of the ways we might love others or ourselves. We can love ourselves and partners as flawed and sometimes self-involved creatures who also have allure and divinity, are companions and family and sometimes strangers. This begins to give us a vocabulary of metaphors that could help us to expand into love that can both meet us in the moment and invite us to imagine beyond that. Second, as Campbell argued in this month’s highlighted book, The Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth, reflecting on the Grail legends and the lessons of the wounded Fisher King, installed by ritual rather than rightness: we find love when we follow our own nature, rather than simply respond to the expectations of society. If we build a wedding and a marriage following the essence of ourselves as two and one, we can begin to redefine marriage itself, and re-imagine love into its heart. MythBlast authored by: Leigh Melander, Ph.D. has an eclectic background in the arts and organizational development, working with inviduals and organizations in the US and internationally for over 20 years. She has a doctorate in cultural mythology and psychology and wrote her dissertation on frivolity as an entry into the world of imagination. Her writings on mythology and imagination can be seen in a variety of publications, and she has appeared on the History Channel, as a mythology expert. She also hosts a radio who on an NPR community affiliate: Myth America, an exploration into how myth shapes our sense of identity. Leigh and her husband opened Spillian, an historic lodge and retreat center celebrating imagination in the Catskills, and works with clients on creative projects. She is honored to have previously served as the Vice President of the Joseph Campbell Foundation Board of Directors. This MythBlast was inspired by The Power of Myth Episode 5, and Romance of the Grail Latest Podcast In this episode we welcome Chris Vogler. Chris is a Hollywood development executive, screenwriter, author and educator. He is best known for working with Disney and for his screenwriting guide, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers. Chris was inspired by the writings of Joseph Campbell, particularly The Hero with a Thousand Faces. He used Campbell's work to create a 7-page company memo for Hollywood screenwriters, A Practical Guide to The Hero with a Thousand Faces which he later developed into The Writer's Journey. He has since spun off his techniques into worldwide masterclasses. In the conversation, John Bucher of the Joseph Campbell Foundation speaks with Chris about his life, his work, the Hero’s Journey, the art of storytelling, and Joseph Campbell. Listen Here This Week's Highlights “Love is born of the eyes and the heart; it is an individual experience. The eyes quest in the outer world for the object of inspiration, and the heart receives the image, and this image then becomes the idol of individual devotion” -- Joseph Campbell,  Romance of the Grail, 27 The Goddess and the Madonna Q&A (see more videos) Subscribe to the MythBlast Newsletter

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