The Spirit and Spirits of the Season

The following is my response to Matt Cardin’s post, ‘This myth is realized today in us’: On the deep meaning of Christmas.

 * * *

I listened to an interview with Varla Ventura on Coast to Coast AM. She was discussing her book about Christmas stories and folklore.

Between Varla Ventura and the people calling in, it was an interesting show. I was familiar with some of what was brought up, but it’s easy to forget about the other side of Christmas and it is good to be reminded. Most of Christmas has little to do with Christianity. And a lot of the folklore of this time of the season is rather dark.

Our modern tradition of celebrating joyously is only half of the story. It’s the darkest time of the year, the time of short days and cold, when in the past there was little food available and many dangers. It’s when the sun stands still and spirits, ghosts and ghouls come out to haunt and torment. It’s a time of fear when those who have been bad are punished, when those who venture outside can come to untimely ends. And in America we forget about Santa’s not-so-friendly sidekick. (For example, read these from Varla Ventura: Beware the Scandinavian Christmas Troll & The Christmas Troll.)

Plus, there is all that cool stuff about Siberian shamans, magical mushrooms and flying reindeer. We forget the magical part of Christmas, the supernatural, the awe-inspiring unknown of the dark time of the year. Santa is the demi-god of the season, a manifestation of the divine; and his workers, his minions the elves exist behind the scenes of our reality doing whatever it is they do.

We celebrate as an act of sympathetic magic, hoping that the sun will rise again and warm days will be around the corner. When something ends, it isn’t known what will begin, in this case what the next year will be like. In making our New Year’s resolutions, we pray for good fortune that will be bestowed upon us, we ask that the forces beyond the human sphere will assist us instead of blocking and antagonizing us in our hopes and aspirations.

The Christmas celebration is ritual magick, an invocation of a seasonal spirit, a bringing down of the divine into this miserable earthly realm and an appeasing of the cthonic beings that live among us. We put out the milk and cookies so that the hungry elves and spirits will be sated. We sacrifice evergreen trees, a symbol of eternal life. We light up our houses to keep the darkness at bay and to ressurect the solar deity that has died, standing still on the solar cross. We tell stories of the newborn king who shall save us all who worship him. We give presents to celebrate the ideal and hope of goodwill, the archetype and spiritual force of bounty.

Even in our consumerism, we are practicing ritual magick. We buy and we give, the flow of money an act of faith in our society and our way of life. Most retail businesses make most of their money during the winter holidays. Some may see this as mere gross materialism. Yes, it is a celebration of material life, but there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that life is material, that the world we live in is material. The only thing to criticize is how often we forget the magical quality present in our stories and traditions, in our rituals and celebrations. There is real power in such collective actions and intentions when they are focused by ancient symbols and rites.

We collectively envision the world as a better place, envision ourselves as better people. We watch movies that teach us about lost souls learning the meaning of Christmas, the reason of the season. Even when we easily are overcome by anxiety and fear, greed even as shoppers compete and we spend money we should be saving, we do so because we feel a compulsion to ensure that everything is just right, to ensure the ritual is a success. Maybe once the family gets together there will be complaints and arguments, but it’s more important about what we strive to be. We put on our best clothes or our best faces and we try to get into the holiday mood… and the social expectations of it all may feel overwhelming. Still, we all play our part. Even many atheists and non-Christians join in the festivities. We may not know why it is important, but we know it is. That is the nature of traditions, especially those with deep religious significance.

To see it as a battle between baby Jesus and the Satanic forces of capitalism (God and Mammon) is to miss the point, so it seems to me. Christians, maybe more than anyone, too often miss the real Spirit of the Season.

Christianity is based on an ancient solar myth with Jesus as the solar god-man who has taken many forms. Darkness and light are like Yin and Yang. Jesus descends to Hell to save the damned before rising to Heaven. At this time of year, we focus so much on the birth of our savior that we forget that death precedes birth in the spiritual realm. It’s at the Winter Solstice that we are reminded that God as Jesus was born into this world, that spirituality isn’t just about being saved in the afterlife. It’s an opportunity to see God as being a force on earth and throughout mankind, among family and friends, among neighbors and communities. We manifest God by taking care of each other, by helping the poor, by giving freely. The Divine is here with us, all around us, the world alive with Spirit and spirits.

The Real Reagan: Stubborn Facts

This post is perfunctorial. I just wanted to gather a bunch of data in one place (videos first and links at the end), but I feel no motivation to analyze any of it or add my own commentary. So, take it or leave it. If you’re so interested, here is the real Ronald Reagan. As he once said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

The Elephant That Wasn’t There

I was talking to someone the other day who was telling me about a recent family visit (by the way, her telling of it reminded me of the type of story David Sedaris writes).

It was her older sister who was visiting and they were discussing the past. The older sister claimed that she used to go for rides on a pony that a neighbor had. The neighbor gave pony rides somewhere for money and would allow the sister to ride the pony home. However, the older sister also claimed that this pony owner also owned an elephant who would also sometimes follow along. The woman I was talking to didn’t believe her sister’s story about the elephant and so investigated by asking other family members and some old neighbors from the area. No one else remembered the elephant, but the older sister was absolutely certain about the elephant’s existence. It was real in her mind.

I find that amusing. None of us really knows how much of our memories are correct. Few of us are ever motivated or capable of fact-checking most of our memories. Stories we’ve encountered over our lifetimes (especially when young) can become incorporated into our own personal story. I mean it’s logical that where there is a pony there might be an elephant. Science has proven that we literally re-member every time we recall something. The more often we recall something the less reliable the memory becomes. We don’t remember the thing itself. We remember our own retellings.

We all live in our own private fantasy worlds. I’ve been drawn to this idea. I think I first encountered it with Robert Anton Wilson’s writings about reality tunnels. It’s not just individuals but whole societies that get caught up in reality tunnels. In the case of personal memories, another person who knows us can offer a reality check. A collective reality tunnel is different because everyone within the society will reinforce the shared view of reality. Our collective retellings are rituals that remake the world in the way the Australian Aborigines remake the world by retracing the pathways of the gods. What if there is some truth to this? Maybe scientific laws and evolution are simply forms of collective memory.

This avenue of thought is explored in great detail by Philip K. Dick and by those influenced/inspired by PKD (for example: Jonathan Lethem’s Amnesia Moon and Ursula K. Leguin’s The Lathe of Heaven). I just finished reading PKD’s Eye in the Sky. I was mostly reading that novel while at work which led me to contemplate the world around me. I work late at night and staring into the concrete interior of a parking ramp (where I work) offers an interesting opportunity for contemplation.

My job at the parking ramp is cashier. In the large picture, it’s kind of a pointless job. With developing technology, it’s almost obsolete for all practical purposes. I sometimes envision myself working there in the future after the robots have taken over the job and my only purpose will be to wave and smile at the customers as they drive out. My job is merely representative of most of the pointless work humans occupy themselves with… but is it really pointless? Or is there some purpose being served that is less than obvious? Work is a ritual that sustains our society, the reality tunnel of our culture, of our entire civilization. From a practical perspective, most jobs could be eliminated and many things would run more smoothly and effectively without all the wasted effort of keeping people employed. But if all the pointless jobs were eliminated, there would be chaos with the masses of unemployed. Employing the mindless masses keeps them out of trouble and keeps them from revolting. Make them think their life actually has purpose. Still, a purpose is being served even if it’s simply maintaining social order. My point is that social order is merely the external facet of any given collective reality tunnel.

In PKD’s stories, the protagonist is often faced with a true reality that is hidden behind an apparent reality. This true reality isn’t somewhere else but is instead all around us. This is a gnostic vision of the kingdom on earth. PKD had a few spiritual visions which inspired his theologizing and his fiction writing. I too have had some visions that have made me question the status quo of normal reality.

In enacting our social rituals and retelling our social myths, what kind of reality are we collectively creating? When I look upon a structure like an ugly parking ramp, what kind of world am I looking upon? Why are we creating such a world? What is the motivation? If we stopped enacting these social rituals and stopped retelling these social myths, what would happen to this consensus reality of civilization we’ve created and what would replace it? Or what would be revealed?

“As long as we keep ourselves busy tilling the earth, there is no fear of any of us becoming wild.”
~  J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur

Marina Warner on Rilke

Marina Warner on Rilke

Posted on May 20th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

“Every Angel is terrible.”
Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke

By Marina  Warner

Pages 54-55:
In an essay about playing with dolls, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke describes the way imagination stirs to fill a void, to stop the love for a doll expiring on the blank slate of its response.  Rilke often throws an oblique light on Freud, as if engaged in a distant conversation with him (as in the case of his poems on Narcissus), and he also illuminates the uncanny when he describes the power of make-believe in children.  He writes:

“I know, I know it was necessary for us to have things of this kind, which acquiesced in everything.  The simplest love relationships were quite beyond our comprehension, we could not possibly have lived and had dealings with a person who was something; at most, we could only have entered into such a person and have lost ourselves there.  With the doll we were forced to assert ourselves, for, had we surrendered ourselves to it, there would then have been no one there at all…. it was so abysmally devoid of phantasy, that our imagination became inexaustible in dealing with it.”

(The Rilke quote is from ‘Some Reflections on Dolls—Occasioned by the Wax Dolls of Lotte Pritzel’, in Rodin and Other Pieces)

Page 170:
Sigmund Freud produced his controversial 1914 paper on the psycholgy of narcissism the year after Rainer Maria rilke wrote two of his many intense Narcissus poems.  The poet caught at Ovid’s underlying aesthetic concerns, and identified himself with the doomed lover in several highly wrought meditaitons on love, autononmy, self-annihalation, and creativity.  In one tight eight-line lyric of 1913 Rilke passionately describes Narcissus’ beauty, and his absorption and final disappaearance into the mirror of himself; in another, longer poem, his Narcissus imagines loving another or being loved by another, but rejects the possibility as damaging to the perfect unity of his twinned being for the making of beauty.  ‘On Narcissism’, Freud’s paper, ostensibly counters the views of his former colleague and friend C. G. Jung,  but it does seem to be replying, without aknowledgment, to Rilke’s poetic manifesto, Freud laying out his damaging argument that both the ego and the libido are deeply entangled from infancy in self-love(primary narcissism); and prescribing that this energy be healthily cathected towards another object, most often a lover and, especially in the case of women, a child.  The paper, and the concept of narcissism which it has defined and spread, have eclipsed some of the threads in Ovid’s fascinating originary story about the recognition and the self.  Before Freud’s essay placed the myth in the field of perverse sexuality, the motive of the imperilling mirror occurred widely, principally in tales defining primitves, saves: the instrument of revelation, a glass, could capture and subdue wild things and bring them within the compass of civility—usually disempowered.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

8 minutes later

Nicole said

wow! how do you find this stuff, master of the search engine. i am fascinated…

Rilke was deeply conflicted in some ways, very wounded wrt childhood issues. His mother wanted him to be a girl and clothed him in dresses until a ridiculous age. His father was harsh and insisted on military school, completely inappropriate for such a sensitive and poetic boy.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

28 minutes later

Marmalade said

I own this book and I noticed the author mentioned Rilke twice(the two quotes above).  Since, I wanted to start a conversation with you about Rilke, this seemed like a nice place to start.  I wish I had found it in a search engine, but instead I typed it out.

What you said does me give more insight to Rilke.  I’d like to hear more about him if you’d like to share.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 3 hours later

Nicole said

here’s a brief biography

Writer and poet, Rilke was considered one of the greatest lyric poets of modern Germany. He created the “object poem” as an attempt to describe with utmost clarity physical objects, the “silence of their concentrated reality.” He became famous with such works as Duineser Elegien and Die Sonette an Orpheus . They both appeared in 1923. After these books, Rilke had published his major works, believing that he had done his best as a writer.

Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague as the son of Josef Rilke, a railway official and the former Sophie Entz. A crucial fact in Rilke’s life was that his mother called him Sophia. She forced him to wear girl’s clothes until he was aged five – thus compensating for the earlier loss of a baby daughter. Rilke’s parents separated when he was nine. His militarily inclined Father sent him at ten yesrs old to the military academies of St. Pölten and Mahrisch-Weisskirchenn. At the military academy Rilke did not enjoy his stay, and was sent to a business school in Linz. He also worked in his uncle’s law firm. Rilke continued his studies at the universities of Prague, Munich, and Berlin.

As a poet Rilke made his debut at the age of nineteen with Leben und Lieder (1894), written in the conventional style of Heinrich Heine. In Munich he met the Russian intellectual Lou Andreas-Salome, an older woman, who influenced him deeply. In Florence, where he spent some months in 1898, Rilke wrote: “… I felt at first so confused that I could scarcely separate my impressions, and thought I was drowning in the breaking waves of some foreign splendor.”

With Lou Andreas-Salome and her husband Rilke travelled in Russia in 1899, visiting among others Leo Tolstoy . Rilke was deeply impressed by what he learned of Russian mysticism. During this period he started to write The Book of Hours: The Book of Monastic Life , which appeared in 1905. He spent some time in Italy, Sweden, and Denmark, and joined an artists’ colony at Worpswede in 1903. In his letters to a young would-be poet, which he wrote from 1903 to 1908, Rilke explained, that “nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.” (in Letters to a Young Poet, 1929 )

In 1901 Rilke married the young sculptress, Klara Westhoff, one of Auguste Rodin’s pupils. They had a daughter, Ruth, but marriage lasted only one year. During this period Rilke composed in rhymed, metered verse, the second part of The Book of Hours . The work expressed his spiritual yearning. After Rilke had separated from Klara, he settled in Paris to write a book about Rodin and to work for his secretary (1905-06).

In the Spring of 1906 the overworked poet left Rodin abruptly. Rilke revised Das Buch der Bilder and published it in an enlarged edition. He also wrote The Tale of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke , which became a great popular success. During his Paris years Rilke developed a new style of lyrical poetry. After Neue Gedighte (1907-08, New Poems) he wrote a notebook named Die Aufzechnungen des Malte Laurdis Brigge (1910), his most important prose work. It took the form of a series of semiautobiographical spiritual confessions but written by a Danish expatriate in Paris.

Rilke kept silent as a poet for twelve years before writing Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus , which are concerned with “the identity of terror and bliss” and “the oneness of life and death”. Duino Elegies was born in two bursts of inspiration separated by ten years. According to a story, Rilke heard in the wind the first lines of his elegies when he was walking on the rocks above the sea – “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?”

Rilke visited his friend Princess Marie von Thurnun Taxis in 1910 at Duino, her remote castle on the coast of the Adriatic, and returned again next year. There he started to compose the poems, but the work did not proceed easily. After serving in the army, Rilke was afraid that he would never be able to finish it but finally in 1922 he completed Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) in a chateau in Muzot, Switzerland. He also wrote an addition, the Sonnets to Orpheus , which was a memorial for the young daughter of a friend. In the philosophical poems Rilke meditated on time and eternity, life and death, art versus ordinary things. The tone was melancholic. Rilke believed in the coexistence of the material and spiritual realms, but human beings were for him only spectators of life, grasping its beauties momentarily only to lose them again. With the power of creativity an artist can try to build a bridge between two worlds, although the task is almost too great for a man. The work influenced deeply such poets as Sidney Keyes, Stephen Spender, Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin, John Ashbery, and W.H. Auden, who had Rilkean angels appear in the collection In Times of War (1939).

In 1913 Rilke returned to Paris, but he was forced to return to Germany because of the First World War. Duino Castle was bombarded to ruins and Rilke’s personal property was confiscated in France. He served in the Austrian army and found another patron, Werner Reinhart, who owned the Castle Muzot at Valais. After 1919 he lived in Switzerland, occupied by his work and roses in his little garden. For time to time he went to Paris for a few months or to Italy. Rilke’s companion during his last years was the artist Baladine (Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro), whose son, Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski), become also an artist. Rilke wrote a foreword to a book illustrated by Balthus’s drawings of cats. Rilke died on December 29, in 1926.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 7 hours later

Marmalade said

Thanks Nicole!

Reading that bio makes me particularly curious to read Duino Elegies.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 10 hours later

Nicole said

I’d like to know what you think, Ben. I find it really helpful to have this background in mind when reading his poetry, especially his central work… especially when he talks about love, or mothers… I think I blogged all or most of the Elegies, but anyway I’m sure you have found online the link to read them all, you’re so good with that.

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Posted on Apr 7th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I’ve been reading several authors recently that are related.

I just finished The Gospel & the Zodiac by Bill Darlison.  I’m now reading Christianity: the Origins of a Pagan Religion by Philippe Walter.  I’ve also been perusing two of Joseph Campbell’s works: Thou Art That and The Flight of the Wild Gander, and Alexander Eliot’s The Universal Myths.

They all are related(in my mind).  First, they’re all about mythology.  Second, they all speak about Christianity.

There are 5 mythic/archetyapl characters that fit closely together.  There is the Trickster, the Primal Man, the Titan/Giant, the Hero, and the Savior.  The Hero and the Savior are obviously related as Jesus fits fairly well into the Hero’s Journey.  The Primal Man is known as Adam in Christianity and Jesus is known as the Second Adam, one causes death and the other conquers it.  The cause of death is normally an element of the Trickster which is closely related to the Primal Man.  Loki connects the Titan/Giant with the Trickster, and Prometheus fairly well brings together the different categories.

In Walter’s book, he theorizes about a European pagan mythology that was incorporated into Christianity of the Middle Ages.  He sees at the center of this was a Giant and also related was the class of Birdwomen.  Birds have been related to shaman’s and their visions for as long as man has been thinking about such things.  He mentions the difference between myth and ritual, and how rituals are more reliable evidence of ancient religions because rituals are more stable and unchanging even as the explanations(stories) surrounding them change.

Campbell writes about the differences betweem visions and rituals in reference to what he calls the ‘Titan-shaman’.  He also details how this can be understood through looking at the differences of hunter societies and planting societies.  This relates to paganism and Christianity and the development of religion in general, and Campbell also mentions the differences of religions that emphasize the individual vs the collective.  All of this fits into the insights from Spiral Dynamics.  I also thinks this relates to Jasper’s notion of the Axial Age.

Furthermore, I’ve been thinking about the distinction between symbol and sign, connotation and denotation.  And also what Campbell was saying about tender-minded vs tough-minded.

I plan to go into more detail, but I wanted to do an intro blog to set out the ideas I’ve been pondering.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer
about 3 hours later

Nicole said

this would be a great series for the God Pod. what do you think?



Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 7 hours later

Marmalade said

Yeah… most definitely.  I was actually thinking of posting it in one of the pods, and it probably fits well into the theme of the God pod.  Feel free to add it, or if you’d prefer I could start a thread.  My next entry should give more detail to my thoughts, and I’ll try to get to it tomorrow.

While I’m here in the comments, let me add two other related archetypes.  I was reading the chapter about the Trickster in Jeremy Taylor’s book The Living Labyrinth.  He mentions how the Divine Child and the Shadow are polar opposite faces of the Trickster.  As an example, the child who points out the king is wearing no clothes is simultaneously playing both roles.  Also, two well known examples of the Divine Child Trickster are Hermes and Krishna.  As for the Shadow, I’d think the Trickster archetype would be inseparable from it.

Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

Here is the link to the thread where I posted this blog entry in the God Pod.

Nicole : wakingdreamer
1 day later

Nicole said

I’m really intrigued by your comment about the Divine Child, Shadow and Trickster… If you’re willing to take the discussion into archetypes and these kinds of interactions, it could really help get things rolling by sharing that in the thread on the God Pod. Many are not sure how to comment on something as intellectually challenging as your posts there, but these archetypal aspects are more accessible and intriguing to more people… what do you think?

 – – –

Here are comments from the forum threads:

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Myth, Religion, and Social Development: A series by Marmalade

Marmalade said Apr 8, 2008, 5:36 PM:

  By the way, if anyone has any info to add, I’d be glad to hear it.  Specifically, I’m interested in anything about the relationship between comparative mythology and Spiral Dynamics.  I know of various theories about the development of myth, but I’ve never come across a Spiral Dynamics analysis.

I’ve always wondered why comparative mythology doesn’t get much inclusion in integral discussions.  I know Julian has blogged about comparative mythology and has blogged about Spiral Dynamics, but I don’t know that he has blogged about their possible connections.

I’ve done thorough searches about this on the web, and have yet to come up with that many leads.  There is only one that comes to mind is James Whitlark who wrote about Jungian archetypes of individuation in the context of Spiral Dynamics.  However, Whitlark wasn’t looking at myth in terms of social development.

 – – –
Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 9, 2008, 2:44 AM:

  I’ve been recently thinking about comparative mythology.  I’ve been reading some books on the subject including Campbell of course, and the developmental perspective often comes up.  I thought Spiral Dynamics would be a good model to analyze theories such as Campbell’s, but I was wondering if there were any in-depth integral interpretations of comparative mythology.

In doing a web search, I see that Wilber speaks about Campbell in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.  Its been a long while since I’ve read that book and I don’t have a copy of it on hand.  I also came across this old discussion of Wilber on the Joseph Campbell Foundation discussion board, but I haven’t had a chance to look through it thoroughly.

Does anyone know of any other info out there… websites, articles, books?
Does anyone know Wilber’s most recent thinking on mythology and mythologists?
Does anyone have any personal opinions or theories on this subject?

My thoughts at the moment are primarily focused on a particular set of archetypal characters that are often closely related in mythology.  Included in this are the Savior, God-Man, Man-Beast, Primal Man, Titan, Trickster, and Divine Child.  But I’m always interested in all aspects of mythology.

  Balder : Kosmonaut  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Balder said Apr 10, 2008, 9:57 AM:

  Hi, Marmalade, I’m just checking in to let you know I’m not ignoring your question – just waiting for an opportune time to write.  And to research something.  I have some books at home that discuss the works of some folks who might be of interest to you, but I haven’t had a chance to look them up yet.  I’ll try to get back to you this evening or tomorrow morning.

Best wishes,

B. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 10, 2008, 1:16 PM:

  Balder, I’d appreciate anything you had to offer. 
  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 2:18 PM:

  I received my indoctrination into mythology via iniitiation into a hermetic and qabalastic Order. Tarot study was one of the vehicles into the meanings of myths. One of the early pioneers of tarot study is A. E. Waite, also a member of said Order. He (and his artist) published one of the most widely-used tarot decks today. His free e-book, The Pictorial Key to Tarot, can be found at this link. Enjoy.

  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 2:37 PM:

  Jung was also fascinated with tarot and it is claimed that he got his four basic personality types from the tarot court cards. Sallie Nichols wrote an interesting book on Jung’s study of it: Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey.
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 10, 2008, 4:25 PM:

  I’ve studied Tarot a bit.  I became interested in myth through Jung, but it was through Tarot that I became interested in Jungian typology.  I’m not familiar with what Jung knew about Tarot, but he was knowledgeable of Temperaments in its pre-Kiersey form.

And it’s good that you posted that image of the Fool.  That is definitely another archetype closely related to the Trickster and Divine Child. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 6:58 PM:

  It is ironic that part of the curriculum of the Order was assumption of God forms through ceremonial ritual. Comparisons have been made with Tibetan deity yoga. We also used Tarot for pathworking, i.e., stepping inside the tarot card and interacting with the characters and symbols via imagination. Of couse we were first inculcated over years in the symbolical meanings of the images and other hermetical, alchemical, astrological etc. lore so that our “astral” travels were fairly pre-ordained by “right view.” On the other hand I did have some rather unique and idiosyncratic journeys with the cards, often revealing my personal and familial psychodynamic material. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//
  Bill : practicioner & free  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Bill said Apr 11, 2008, 1:47 AM:

  I did have some rather unique and idiosyncratic journeys with the cards, often revealing my personal and familial psychodynamic material.

Me too. Fun times. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//
  Balder : Kosmonaut  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Balder said Apr 11, 2008, 10:01 AM:

  Hi, Marmalade,

One of the authors I was thinking of is Lawrence Hatab – and in particular, his book, Myth and Philosophy.

I just looked on the web and found the following brief summary of (and editorial response to) this book:

Myths make sense in (and of) a cultural context. When the context changes, the old myths stop making sense. That’s what happened to the Greek myths over twenty-five hundred years ago, when philosophers like Xenophanes began to question the reality of the traditional gods and goddesses. In a similar spirit, our own philosophers have been chipping away at the Judeo-Christian mythos for the past couple of centuries, attempting to replace it with a secular substitute.
In Myth and Philosophy: A Contest of Truths, philosopher Lawrence J. Hatab of Dominion University has argued that myth cannot and should not be reduced to other modes of expression (such as rational explanation in philosophy, mathematics, or science), and that in its own way myth offers truths as real and important as those of rational discourse. Moreover, according to Hatab, when philosophy tries to break completely with myth, it loses its way; and it is this attempt on the part of modern science and philosophy to demythologize human consciousness that has weakened our ties with the deepest truths of our cultural heritage.

The materialist philosophers that Hatab opposes say that we should get rid of myths altogether, become more rational, and wean ourselves from superstition. Myth, they say, should retire in favor of science. But science, though it is formulated in a way quite different from traditional myths, still serves a mythic function: It tells us how the Universe began, where the first people came from, and how the world came to be the way it is. This suggestion that we do away with mythology is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of myth and of the human psyche. Myth in some form is inevitable and necessary. Our knowledge is always finite, and is always overlapped by our need for meaning. Our thoughts and aspirations seek some symbolic language through which we can talk about, and participate in, what we otherwise cannot see, touch, or taste. What is our goal, our meaning, our purpose as human beings? These are the questions a myth can answer.

Virtually every thinking person sees the need for dramatic global renewal if our world is to survive; and, as the greatest politicians, artists, spiritual leaders, and even scientists know in their bones, only a new myth can inspire creative cultural change. But where will this bolt of inspiration come from?

Ironically, while many scientists have sought to undo myth altogether, it is science itself that seems to me to be serving as a primary source for a new myth. Science’s great strengths are its continual checking of theory with experience and its ability to generate new theories in response to new discoveries. While it is still a very young enterprise, and capable of generating its own irrational dogmas, science is in principle malleable and self-correcting. Currently, it appears that elements of a new myth are emerging through quantum and relativity physics, though more directly and powerfully through the findings of anthropology (which is “discovering” the wisdom of native peoples), psychology (which is only beginning to develop a comprehensive understanding of human consciousness), sociology (which offers a comparative view of human economies and lifestyles), and ecology – as well as through the profound, nearly universal human response to the view of planet Earth from space, an image that owes more to technology than to theoretical science.

Each of these sources is, I believe, contributing to the formulation of a myth whose general features are becoming clear enough that it can be articulated in simple story form. We could call it the myth of healing and humility. It starts out somewhat like the old myth, but diverges rather quickly.”
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  Lionza : Sweetfire  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Lionza said Apr 14, 2008, 3:50 PM:

  Quoting from Balder´s post :

´´Currently, it appears that elements of a new myth are emerging through quantum and relativity physics, though more directly and powerfully through the findings of anthropology (which is “discovering” the wisdom of native peoples), psychology (which is only beginning to develop a comprehensive understanding of human consciousness), sociology (which offers a comparative view of human economies and lifestyles), and ecology – as well as through the profound, nearly universal human response to the view of planet Earth from space, an image that owes more to technology than to theoretical science. ´´

It is all too apparent that Science Fiction, particularly in the last 40 years, has combined all of these fields;  physics (warp speed…), anthropology (…and new civilizations, to boldly go…), psychology ( I did not kill your father:  I am your father…) sociology (… we cannot interfere with…), ecology (… this is project Genesis…) and much more – and has unoficially become a steady source of modern mythological reference.  Not many Western kids can refer to Hanuman but they probably know Chewbacca.   And as these things go, Science fiction was/is heavily inspired from Ancient mythologies the world over. 

It seems that now movies such as the ´Lord of the Rings´ Trilogy, has joined this esteemed loop of neo-mythology.  Wasn´t the horned demon  Balrog a superb mix between Satan and the Minotaurof Crete? 

Yes, our new Mythology is here already and the great thing is that we don´t have to be conned into any crazy belief systems or worship rituals to call it ours – maybe we can re-organize it a bit…

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 16, 2008, 3:12 AM:

  I’m looking at several books I own right now that are about the connection between mythology, religion, and culture including pop culture.

The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson

The Melancholy Android by Eric G. Wilson

The Gospel According to Science Fiction by Gabriel McKee

I read The Secret Life of Puppets several years ago, and its a great book.  The other two I haven’t read all of the way through, but I have read another book by Gabriel McKee which he wrote about Philip K. Dick. // <![CDATA[
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  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 11, 2008, 10:29 PM:

  Balder – Thanks!  That is the kind of book that interests me.  I have some books about Jung and philosophy.  Jung certainly felt mythology and philosophy were related. // <![CDATA[
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Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Zakariyya [no longer around] said Apr 16, 2008, 2:08 PM:

  I really think that modernism and post-modernism doesn’t understand spiritual mythology, Including Ken Wilber.

Mythology is only the outer face of spiritual cosmologies that explain very intimately the workings of the inner [human soul] and outer universe


The wisest humans in history have left great pearls of knowledge in these myths. A group of secular philosophers want to label them as obsolete, though these philosophers, not a single one of them can come up with knowledge that can replace any of the real meaning of the ancient myths // <![CDATA[
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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 16, 2008, 3:23 PM:

  I hear what you’re saying about modernists and post-modenists… and Wilber too.  I do feel that most people don’t have much understanding of mythology.  This isn’t surprising as its not a subject widely taught in schools.

I don’t know to what degree that someone like Wilber does or doesn’t understand mythology, but it does seem that he doesn’t see much value in studying it as he doesn’t talk about it much.  Is this just a personal bias in that it doesn’t interest him?  Or does he see mythology as being limited to a specific quadrant at a specific level of development?

So, what would second-tier mythology look like?
What is a genuine trans-rational perspective that integrates both the rational and non-rational?


Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Zakariyya [no longer around] said Apr 17, 2008, 4:14 PM:

  Wilber looks at mythology as “ myth of the given” metaphysics. In other words the great thinkers don’t need it anymore because the myths are obsolete.

There is nothing further from the truth!


People are impressed by the highly intellectual scientific mystics like Wilber because of their appearance of knowledge.

In my opinion their knowledge isnt that deep

Some important points about mythology:

1.Mythology has nothing to due with stories or fables.

2.Mythologies are just allegories that describe universal subtle laws on all levels of understanding.

3. A myth is usually based on a real event, simply because myths are always playing themselves out in the real world in some form. It is important to understand that myths have levels of interpretation

For example: The statement in the mythological New testament of Jesus:

“I and the father are one”

Is a description of the path of the mystic merging with the universal idea of cosmic science? This is the high level interpretation.

The lower level [for the exoteric believers] is a description of being one with “God”

Another myth– that of the Garden of Eden story– is also HIGHLY misunderstood.

The tree of in the Garden of Eden is really very lofty states of “Paradise” not a real tree with an apple.

The Garden of Eden itself is the inner structure known as The Essence, that which rules all of our states of consciousness.

These are just two examples of the very rich dynamic knowledge and wisdom that are cloaked in mythology.

The modernist, and postmodernists, personified by folks like Mr Wilber apparently dont understand the higher levels of interpretation of mythology.

  Lionza : Sweetfire  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Lionza said Apr 25, 2008, 11:12 PM:

  Yes I agree.  Myths ARE multy layered coded stories of the major  principles, havoc and games playing in  nature and her creatures, human emotions, stellar events, etc.   But since many of them have not only been coded but have also been warped by additions and twists along the corridors of time , it  gets difficult to see how consistently they do this. 

I too have been perplexed as to why Ken Wilber practically dismisses them without a close examination. Jung first understood the idea of archetypes when a bizarre dream of one of his European patients described an image of the Sun exacly like a Mithraic myth which the patient had never known.  

And I also agree that advanced laws of science are coded in myths.  For example, the idea of all of creation springing out in a Big Bang from a ´tiny seed´of compressed potential was described centuries ago in myths of the Indian sub- continent . 

Definately, treasures would be had if myths were to be deciphered  AND weeded out of warped additions.

C.S. Lewis and Myth

C.S. Lewis believed the pagan myths were mere creations of man and so conveyed the truths of men, but that Christianity was a true myth.  Lewis was convinced of the Christian story as real because of an atheist he knew who accepted Jesus as having historically existed.  This is strange that he put so much validity to this atheist’s claims while he apparently ignored the conclusions by others who contradicted historical proof.  Whatever his reasoning, Lewis seemed to have made the leap that historical reality equates to divine reality. 

Two things must be forgiven Lewis for his knowledge was limited.  First, the doubts about Jesus having historically lived have only continually grown stronger since that time.  Even during Lewis’ lifetime, there were plenty of intellectuals doubting the supposed historical proofs of Jesus, but Lewis was ultimately looking for any reason to believe.  He simply wanted to believe.  Second, either he wasn’t knowledgeable in the field of mythology or else certain issues weren’t well known among scholars of his day.  Anyways, his assumption that the Christian myth was the only one claimed to be historical is utterly false.  The rational framework (i.e., the apologetics) of Lewis’ Christian beliefs fall apart under the careful scrutiny of contemporary knowledge.  These arguments still are powerful though partly because ignorance of such matters is still immense.  One can still find biblical scholars who seem ignorant or dismissive of the fact that other religious myths have been claimed to be historical, but I suppose that is simply the danger of academic specialization in particular when in service of dogma.  The question that comes to mind is that even if Lewis had more knowledge would this have changed one iota his desire to believe and hence his ultimate conclusion of belief.  If his desire was strong enough, he could’ve found other ways to rationalize his belief.

I should point out an important factor.  Lewis was attracted to pagan mythology.  It affected him in a way that the Christian myth initally didn’t.  His intellect got in the way of his appreciating Christianity.  He wanted to rationally understand how Jesus life could have influence on him now besides merely being an example (which wouldn’t be enough to support conversion).  Tolkien helped Lewis to realize he was putting Christianity on a different level than Paganism, and that he needed to approach Christian myth in the way he did with Pagan myth.  Tolkien’s more poetic mindset helped Lewis understand his own intellectual bias.  Christianity was myth as well, but it was true myth… the Word of God incarnate.

This is all fine and dandy, but doesn’t make for good apologetics.  By this, I mean that it wouldn’t convince anyone that isn’t already a Christian or isn’t already looking for a reason to believe.  His dismissal of pagan myths as merely human stories hints at a tremendous lack of insight and understanding.  The Pagans were similarly inspired by divine visions when creating their stories.  Also, like Christians, many Pagans conflated mythology with history.  His separation between Christianity and Paganism is artificial and unhelpful.

I will, however, give credit where it’s due.  Lewis did come to a middleground position that no Christian fundamentalist could ever accept.  He didn’t simply dismiss pagan myth.  He had studied myths for himself and he realized they held powerful truths, but ultimately the apologist in him had to limit this insight.  He required that a myth be absolutely true or else just a story.  As I see it, the point of myth is that it can never be clearly defined.  Clear definitions are of man and not of the divine.  The intellectual desire of apologetics in trying to prove Christianity ultimately undermines the very value of Christianity… not that ignorance is the answer.  Whether or not Jesus (or any mythological character for that matter) actually lived is ultimately insignificant.  The teachings that are claimed to be from Jesus had been spoken before by others.  They’re either true or false based on their value.  Besides, God could just as easily speak through any mythological character or actual human as through Jesus… and Jesus never claims otherwise.  Plus, even if Jesus had existed, it proves absolutely nothing.  First century teachers and prophets making astounding claims (such as being Christ, Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man) and having astounding claims made about them (such as healings, miracles and salvation) were dime a dozen.

Basically, if Lewis (like any other Christian) wished to believe, then he was free to have faith.  But such faith is at best a spiritual experience and so rationality is besides the point.  Anytime rationality is used to support faith it inevitably fails as it becomes mired in rationalization.  Lewis, of course, became aware of the limitations of rationality.  But, differently than Tolkien, he had a stronger tendency towards relying on intellectual understanding.  He necessitated an initial “belief” in a rational groundwork for Christianity (i.e., belief in the historical Christ) before he could embrace belief on its own terms.  His problem was that he couldn’t imagine Christianity as being respectable or worthy without this initial claim of proof.  To me, this puts the whole edifice of Christianity on rather shaky ground.  For one, it can’t be proved by secular standards of historical and scientific scholarship.  Secondly, even if it were true, there is no way to distinguish it from all of the other historical claims of equal validity.  Why not be Jewish, Muslim, Manichean or Buddhist instead of Christian?  All of the founders of these religions have been claimed to be historical.  Furthermore, many early Christians outright denied Jesus being historical.  They actually believed the historical claims undermined his spiritual value.  Whether or not you agree with this assessment, it demonstrates that a Christian almost two thousand years later has no reason to feel secure in historical claims when the earliest Christians couldn’t even agree.

The problem for Lewis’ apologetics comes down to a single factor.  All myths have to be judged on the same level.  Claims of historical proof or divine status aren’t original or exclusive to Christianity and so can’t be used to distinguish it.  Even the theology of Christianity mostly isn’t original and exclusive.  I don’t mean to dismiss the truth of Christianity, but I’m only trying to convey that Christians will have to dig a bit deeper to find it.  Lewis intuitively sensed a truth in Christianity and that is what is important.  The problem comes when a person believes what intuitively makes sense to them must be absolutely true for everyone.  I do suspect there are something like universal truths, but even so I doubt they exist on the surface level of any given story or doctrine.  Lewis maybe should’ve stayed closer to his actual experience rather than looking for a Christian explanation.  Instead of trying to bring his personal truth into the context of collective religious myth (i.e., orthodox Christian doctrine), he might’ve found even more insight by following it into the depths of the poetic imagination, the spiritual substratum.

I shouldn’t be so critical of Lewis.  I respect a person who struggled with trying to understand such difficult issues.  He did have a very questioning attitude.  He was as openminded as someone could be and still retain some connection to orthodox Christianity.  He has helped many Christians to have a more open relationship to traditions outside of Christianity.  Along with Carl Jung, Lewis aided the interfaith dialogue and helped lay the groundwork for the for the contemporary interest in comparative mythology.  Lewis represents the beginning of a transition from traditional apologetics towards a more sophisticated analysis of religion, but ultimately Lewis is still an apologist even if above average in intelligence.

Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors (part 2)

This is a further response that began in my previous post:

Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

I said: This is where I think Acharya/Murdock has one key to understanding a larger perspective. There are only two baaic factors that all humans in all places and time periods have shared: a basic human nature and psychoological functioning; and a common enviornmental experience.

Verenna said: “I don’t accept that all humans have a common environmental experience.  We all have “environmental experiences” but they are not common.  The degrees by which they vary is why we have jerks and humanitarians and humanitarian jerks.”

I wasn’t talking about common environmental experience as a social factor, but that plays in as well because research shows that social development follows common patterns.  Rather, what I was talking about is the physical environment: sun and moon, stars and planets; seasons along with daily and yearly solar cycles; migration and growth patterns; universal scientific laws.  Et Cetera.  These environmental experiences (including the social aspects as well) are common to “jerks and humanitarians and humanitarian jerks.”  There is nothing overly controversial about my claim.

I said: As for the latter, the most universal experience humans share is the observation of the sky.

Verenna said: “I disagree.  I think the most universal experience is death.  Some cultures looked up and others looked down.  Others still looked in the trees, in the water, in the wind… don’t let Acharya S pull the wool over your eyes.  Not every culture looked up and saw the same thing.  And not every culture looked down and saw the same thing.”

I certainly wasn’t arguing against other universal human experiences.  Whichever is the most universal, both death and the sky are themes found in every culture. 

Your constant condescension is rude and childish.  You’ve already made it clear that you perceive yourself as a scholar whose insight is simply above my head and I’m a mere simpleton who has been duped.  It’s good you have such a high appraisal of yourself.  Personally, I prefer humility.
As I’ve already said, I read widely beyond Acharya/Murdock: other mythicists, comparative mythologists, psychologists and sociologists, socio-historical commentators, and much else.  Not every culture looked up and came up with the exact same myth.  However, every culture observerd the same patterns and there are plenty of examples where they interpreted them similarly.  For example, cultural transmission can’t explain the similarities between myths in Americas with myths in the rest of the world.  Many scholars have noted these types of similarities long before Acharya/Murdock and many scholars still do.

I said: The human mind evolved with people staring at the sky, and it offered a survival advantage.

Verenna said: “No, the human mind evolved when we started eating red meat.”

The human mind had many contributing factors.  I said the mind evolved with people staring at the sky.  I didn’t say that staring at the sky was a sole factor that caused the humand mind to evolve.

I said: The patterns of animals and plants also follow the patterns of the seasons, and knowing these patterns precisely could mean the difference between life and death for the people of the earliest civilizations.

Verenna said: “You don’t need to look to the sky to interpret seasons.  Again, don’t let Acharya S pull the wool over your eyes.  Nature has its own inherited mechanisms that function seasonally.  Interpreting them was just as much a part of the process.  In some cultures, like some Native American cultures, these natural phenomena were more influential than the stars and the skies.”

One doesn’t need to do anything.  However, the seasons go hand in hand with the cycles of heavenly bodies.  If you don’t realize this, then you can lessen your ignorance in two ways.  You could study the appropriate scholars, or you could spend a year outside carefully observing nature and the sky.  Are you serious when you say “Nature has its own inherited mechanisms that function seasonally”?  Duh!  Step outside of your preconceptions for a moment and study some science.  The sun and moon directly influence nature and even human biology.

It is true that different cultures emphasized different aspects of the world.  As you say, some Native Americans may have focused more on terrestrial phenomena, but they didn’t disregard the stellar phenomena.  Other Native Americans, in fact, even worshipped the sun just like other cultures.

I said: As such, Christians didn’t need to borrow mythology from Pagans. The mythology of the heavens was common to the entire ancient world. Any educated person would’ve been familiar with it. Astrotheology was a common framework of knowledge that crossed cultural and linguistic barriers.

Verenna said: “Astrotheology is bs.  Sorry to be so blunt about it.  It rests on too many assumed variables which are, to be honest, more speculation and wishful thinking than anything else.”

Thanks for further demonstrating your ignorance.  No, don’t worry at all.  I don’t mind you showing everybody your confusion and misunderstanding.  I imagine it must be rather refreshing for you to be so open about your lack of knowledge.

I realize within the field of New Testament studies, the focus of scholarship is generally narrow.  However, astrotheology is an academic study  But, outside of New Testament studies, academics would refer to it as either Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy.
I said: There is another aspect that most people forget. Ancient people experienced the world differently, and it isn’t helpful to place our standards and assumptions onto their stories and religions. I think it’s essential to understand cultural development on the largescale.</em>

Verenna said: “But that is just as bad because then you end up generalizing.”

Science generalizes.  So, I guess it depends if you think science is useful or not.  By studying different cultures at different stages of development, theories have been put forth about social development and cultural experience.

Considering all of your comments, I think you need to pull your nose out of your New Testament scholarship books.  There is a larger world out there and knowing about it might offer you much needed insight and perspective.

Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

Here is a link to a blog by Thomas Verenna with a comment I posted:

Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

It is quite humorous that I mixed you up with that other blogger.  I didn’t get enough sleep last night and my mind was apparently a bit fuzzy.

This blog post has good info.  I’ll have to think more about the distinction between legend and mythology.  Do you think most religions begin with legends?  And do you think legends usually begin in some historical model or inspiration?

There is one place where I see a mixing of myth and legend.  Some savior god-men are also identified with the creator god and/or considered to have existed since the beginning.  But I don’t know if either the legend or the myth comes first or if they co-evolve.

I can only juggle so many fields as well, but my curiosity is always distracting me.  I sometimes wonder why I get obsessed about something like mythicism.  I’m more interested in the comparative mythology side of it and how it relates to modern culture as represented in various media (specifically storytelling). 

I’m more of an idea person in that I prefer philosophy and psychology over history, but of course it all blends together.  My desire to analyze ancient texts is mostly limited to how I perceive the ideas to still be vibrant within contemporary culture.  I find it fascinating how certain ideas can act as memes that take hold of the shared experience of a culture for centuries and even millennia.

One of the earliest books I read that started me in the direction of studying all of this was Carl Jung’s Answer to Job.  It was his most personal book, but also it was where he most deeply engaged the mythology of Christianity.  I tend to lean towards an archetypal view of mythology.  Most basically, archetypes are patterns in the psyche, but they’re also patterns in the environment in which the human psyche evolved.  It is very strange how different cultures often come to similar meanings and mythologies about the world. 

This is where I think Acharya/Murdock has one key to understanding a larger perspective.  There are only two baaic factors that all humans in all places and time periods have shared: a basic human nature and psychoological functioning; and a common enviornmental experience. 

As for the latter, the most universal experience humans share is the observation of the sky.  The human mind evolved with people staring at the sky, and it offered a survival advantage.  The patterns of animals and plants also follow the patterns of the seasons, and knowing these patterns precisely could mean the difference between life and death for the people of the earliest civilizations.

As such, Christians didn’t need to borrow mythology from Pagans.  The mythology of the heavens was common to the entire ancient world.  Any educated person would’ve been familiar with it.  Astrotheology was a common framework of knowledge that crossed cultural and linguistic barriers.

Thinking along these lines, I suspect that these patterns (in the sky and in the mind) precede the storytelling.  Either legends emerge from this pattern-seeking tendency or legends that arose independently become adapted to the requirements of these patterns.

There is another aspect that most people forget.  Ancient people experienced the world differently, and it isn’t helpful to place our standards and assumptions onto their stories and religions.  I think it’s essential to understand cultural development on the largescale. 

Some examples are ideas such as the Axial Age, Julian Jayne’s view of the pre-literate mind, and the socio-cultural developmental model of spiral dynamics.  The clash of ideas beginning in the Hellenistic period was a clash of paridigms of reality.  I sense this has something to do with the clash between Gnosticism and Christianity… something about the emerging literalist mind… along the lines of Weber’s rationalization of culture.

Or so it seems to me.  🙂  I don’t know how this fits into what you’re talking about, but that is the context I’m considering.

Is your book being published soon?  Will it be available on Amazon?