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Reply To: Finding your story in a time of uncertainty


    Mary, Stephen, and Shaheda: my apologies for taking so long to get back on this but truth be told this thread is practically all I have been thinking about for these last few weeks; so I’ll bring you up to where I am right now.

    Mary; your extremely moving post sent me off on this journey picking up from where Stephen left off with his very kind offering of Dennis Slattery’s panel discussion; (which I missed); but none the less I was glad to have his website to go back to at some point. And I want to reference a certain section of Diane Osbon’s: “Reflections on the Art of Living – A Joseph Campbell Companion”; on pages 180-186 where in my view Joseph addresses these themes.


    (Mary): ” So there is a point I think both you and Stephen are making James, one about the difference between personal and public writing—much the way Campbell stated that dreams are private myths and myths are public dreams, our personal journals are our private myths, or our lived experience. But not just our ego experience as you both discuss, but the soul experience. This is all so beautiful I am getting tears in my eyes. I get very emotional about writing and writing down the soul.

    But there is another reason, perhaps, that I get tears in my eyes thinking about this. For a long time, I have felt that on Facebook I am expected to put my best most positive face forward even when I don’t want to and don’t feel like it. While I am all for the power of positive thinking, some days when I am miserable about this virus in our world, I just want to visit with my Shadow-misery for a while, to be “allowed” to grieve before moving onward, but most people it seems cannot bear to hear anything negative on Facebook because of what I see/interpret as the positive psychology/positive thinking trend in society now. However, I also believe in paying attention to the Shadow and the negative feeling as part of the healing process. Truth is, I hate this corona virus, I am sick of the sickness it causes, what it has done to us world-wide. I get depressed at times to think this is the world my 7-year old granddaughter and her friends have to grow up in and I worry about what her and their futures will be and then I feel helpless because I wish we all could simply will this virus away. When a teacher quit her job with preschoolers because she felt she could not withstand not being able to comfort a crying child at school and would have to tell the child, “I am sorry, I cannot comfort you because we have to stay at least 6 feet apart,” well, that is how I feel as a grandmother right now and as a mother of an adult child. I would love to hug them both. And then I wish I could hug and comfort my mother or be at the nursing home—plus, I know how much I would love to be comforted too if only I could share a hug with my mother. We are all in one way or another grieving the death of life as it just recently was prior to this virus outbreak. We are trying to piece Osiris back together again.”


    There are several pieces that for me fit together that form a kind of vehicle that our inner world responds to: “The Sacred Space”, the Labyrinth and Ariadne Thread; the ego/shadow complex that is particular to each individual; the sense of Bliss and destiny one is moved by; and the separation between public and private which is affected by the individual response to outside events. I’ll try to explain my thoughts on this rather confusing combination of themes and how they fit into this thread.


    The title: “Finding Your Story in a time of uncertainty” is really the focus of this topic I am attempting to address; not personal writing per say. And this refers to many of the other various Art forms as well in that these are vehicles of consciousness that help us to express what’s going on in our inner world; and indeed to communicate these: feelings, thoughts, impressions, and problems we are experiencing. And as we progress through life; (as Jung points out): “we are in a constant state of becoming”; that is a manifestation of these combined experiences that reflect this process toward wholeness through the different stages of life Joseph talks about throughout his work. Myths are metaphors; (like a language that help us to decipher this bridge between these 2 worlds that we must learn to navigate; and “our story” is the way we make sense of this journey from the: “womb to the tomb” without cracking up.

    People look for meaning; and as Joseph points out on page 16; “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning”. So that our dreams, metaphysical, and spiritual insights give us clues to theses realms and messages of consciousness to help us to get in touch with not only with what we are doing but where we need to go to answer these inner needs; yet the outer world is one of killing and eating and survival that we must come to terms with throughout our allotted time we exist.


    On pages: 180-186; Joseph goes into great detail about not only: “what a sacred space is”; but also how one might implement this: “vehicle of consciousness” into one’s life as a kind of support system that will help one make sense of and give purpose to their individual life. It’s like your own personal tabernacle in which you are enclosed and there is nothing that can penetrate this inner rescue land so that you can discover your own personal myth by which you are living. For instance he states on page 180: “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again”; “A place that lets you experience your own will and your own intention and your own wish so that, in small, the Kingdom is there”. Much like a children’s playground like on page: 181; “If what you are doing seems like play, you are in it. But you can’t play with my toys, you have to have your own. Your life should have yielded some. Older people play with life experiences and realizations or with thoughts they like to entertain”. And further down he states: “When Jung decided to try to discover the myth by which he was living, he asked himself, “What was the game I enjoyed when I was a child?” His answer was making little towns and streets out of stones. So he bought some property and, as a way of playing he began to build a house.”


    On page 182-183; Joseph goes into this idea a little further by explaining what happened when his family home was destroyed and how he realized his favorite: “sacred space”; was his little library and used this as: “a reconstruction—a reactivation, if you will—of my boyhood space. When I go in there to write, I’m surrounded by books that have helped me to find my way, and I recall moments of reading certain works that were particularly insightful. When I sit down to do the writing, I pay close attention to little ritual details—where the notepads and pencils are placed, that sort of thing—so that everything is exactly as I remember it having been before. It’s a sort of “set-up” that releases me. And since that space is associated with a kind of performance is play.”

    How important is this thing he calls: “a sacred space?” He further explains: “Of what value is that? It is an absolute necessity if you are going to have an inner life.” And on page 184 he goes even further: “I was thinking in terms of the sorts of conditions you set up for yourself to achieve the visit to the Grail Castle—-for that’s what this sacred space is; the space where your associations are not with the field of phenomenal experience, but with the field of your own inward life. You do not get there in the normal run of life. To visit the Grail Castle, you have to have a scared space. Then once you have found the connection in your sacred space, you can perhaps translate it into other parts of your life. But first you have to have a little oil well, that goes down deep.”


    He expounds on this idea further on page 185; by showing how one might transfer it into a more modern mobile application: “I’ve been traveling around a lot the last ten years, and when I’m not somewhere I’ve been before, the kind of hotel room I prefer is a completely noncommittal room, the kind you find in a Holiday Inn. I open my bag, put my books on the table, hang my clothes on the open rack, and that’s it: here is Joe Campbell and here are his books—so what more do we have in the world? You can turn any place into a sacred space once you have your own sacred space. However, you can say that sacred space is everywhere only after you have learned, through a meditation discipline or the experience of sacred places, what sanctity is. It is the metaphoric relevance of the object.”

    He shows the mythical relevance of this idea through metaphorical references further on by using the Indian and early man’s interpretation of the mystery manifestation of the Brahman and finishes up on page: 186: “I’m thinking specifically of those Indian temples with a great wall around them: when you enter through the door, everything within that space is symbolic, the whole world is mythologized.

    The earliest sacred spaces of which we have any evidence might well have been the little shrines of Neanderthal man, where there was a cave-bear skull and a lighted fire to build up a little atmosphere. The first real sacred spaces were probably caves in southern France and Northern Spain, dating from 30,000 B.C. When you go into those caves, you are in a magical sacred space, and your consciousness is transformed. I remember going into the big cave in Lascaux. It was fantastic. That universe down there seemed to be the primary world. The animals above ground were simply reflections of those on the walls of the caves. You don’t want to leave a place like that. The majesty and magic of it all somehow brings you into your own center. And once you are there, the sacred space is everywhere.”

    Stephen and Mary have so brilliantly and movingly articulated these themes related to this subject far beyond my meager ability to express them; so I just want to refine this focus a little bit so that others might want to add their own perspectives concerning other art forms along with writing.

    So my point in relating this idea to the original topic is that with one’s personal story: biography: journals; dairies, or anything connected to this type of contextual relationship to one’s personal myth or story are mainly vehicles of access to this scared inner world of the individual. You can use many types of metaphors that can reference it: The sanctuary of a church; the Labyrinth and the Ariadne thread of the analyst; the various metaphoric stories throughout religious texts; the different cultural myths, stories, and legends throughout human history; the list is endless; as Joseph said it has: “A Thousand Faces”; but to me now more than ever mankind needs these things to keep it’s sanity; to remind us of our humanity and that the value systems these things transfer can not only help to heal us; but to bring out the best that is within us.

    No one knows how all of this is going to work out concerning this global pandemic. Many of us are locked down or shut in with little access to personal human contact. And by finding and utilizing our individual  sacred spaces through whatever way or method that works for us is not only important but vital for our future as human beings. So I don’t want to limit this dialogue we are engaged in to just writing; there are many other forms of expression that can serve this purpose; some can even be combined. (I’ve wrestled with this a lot over the last few weeks; and I keep coming back to this same place of our inner world that needs to be addressed; and perhaps even harmonized; but at least accessed in some way; otherwise the shadow will force it’s way out when least expected; and without the knowledge of what it’s saying can wreck havoc on mankind. Jung knew it; and Joseph knew it. So I think it’s an important aspect to include in this conversation. (There is more to include such as one’s sense of destiny and one’s Shadow complex for just two examples; but I think this is enough for the moment; plus others may have their own thoughts to share concerning other ideas not necessarily related to mine.)

    Shaheda; I hope this helps to answer at least some of your questions from your earlier post; and I’m sorry it took me so long to post this; (like I said I’ve been wrestling with this subject for awhile); and you may have some ideas of your own to include.

    Thanks everyone for your patience