The MythBlast: The Word Divine
While this is obviously a prominent phrase in the Judeo-Christian psyche, it is not an idea unique to one culture. In origin stories from around the world, a divine voice is present at the moment of creation, and often is arguably the act of creation itself.The human voice, the act of speaking and singing, and language as a whole are deeply infused with mythos, far more infinite than our daily, often banal communications would suggest. At the first moments of human consciousness, we imagine a voice, both divine and yet somehow personified, and we claim its power for ourselves.Speech is what makes us special, one of the great abiities that begins to differentiate us from other creatures as well as from other men; and ultimately what makes us human. As creatures of story, we are creatures of speech.Our ability to speak is ripe with tensions and apparent contradictions. It both connects us and individuates us, it expands us as it limits us, we transform it as it transforms us. It is how we move from the images encoded in our eyes and our imaginations, and how we tell one another of those images and what they mean. Our words have meaning in their sounds, and in the silence between them.We speak of the past, we speak of the future, but the moment of speech is inherently the present. Philosopher Martin Heidegger writes in On the Way to Language, “Since the Greeks, beings are experienced to be whatever is present. Since language is, it – whatever speaking occurs at any time – belongs to what is present” (115).
What an extraordinary juxtaposition against the retelling of something that has happened in the past, whether mythic or practical memory, or of weaving stories that may happen in the future or maybe only in the connection between the minds of the storyteller and the listener.
And in that connection, speech has the spark of the divine.
Leigh Melander, Ph.D.
Leigh 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 serve as the Vice President of the Joseph Campbell Foundation Board of Directors.
Hello! We at JCF are delighted to present MythBlasts, weekly quick taste of mythology – topical, intriguing, evocative – from scholars in the JCF community. And each week, you are invited further into myth and into the work and world of Joseph Campbell with a link at the bottom to a particular publication we think will illuminate the ideas worked in this week’s MythBlast further. If you’d like to subscribe to get weekly MythBlasts in your inbox, just fill out the contact form on the left side of the page. Thank you!
We are excited to share a little blast of myth with you.
Leigh Melander, Ph.D.
MythBlast Series Editor
Vice President, Board of Directors
Joseph Campbell Foundation