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Reply To: The 5th Function of Myth?




Your post and your question (“[…] “it would be fascinating to consider how that fifth function applies to contemporary society. What do we in “first world” societies not see about ourselves due to the default setting supplied by our dominant mythologies?”) remind me of the concept theory of “participation mystique” from its various angles. Here are some links of definitions about it. (Next I would try to think of specific examples from our first world culture.)

Please excuse/forgive the first link which is Wikipedia–I realize that as a source it is not always accurate or completely accurate, but it makes for a good starting point at times.

While some seem to say or imply that participation mystique is a type of ignorance that is negative, I think there are also positive/beautiful instances of participation mystique in the sense of participating in the mystique of a ritual or nature–or a natural rite (so sometimes both nature and ritual), especially when one is informed or knowledgeable as to the meanings and the symbols of the rite such as its mystical elements, or as magical elements, such as in the use of sympathetic magic in rites. Some people have looked back upon such rites of tribal or indigenous people around the world as pre-Christian (pagan) and ignorant. Yet the medicine man or woman is in the know to bring rain to the tribe through an object like the rain stick that mimics the sound of rain. People connect with the object because of the beauty of the sound. This seems to go along with what you wrote elsewhere about beauty of rhythm that myth is, or mythic pattern, whether in sound of other way. With so many people being disconnected with the natural world today, neo-pagans seeking this connection might pick up the rain stick to connect to the archetype of rain. The mystique of the participatory moment(s) can enchant, like another form of meditation though considered magic, and though considered magic, is the energy of the archetype behind the archetypal image–so whether one believes in the gods (or God) or not, the ceremony is one example of a pleasant and not negative form of participation mystique in my opinion–whether polytheistic ceremony (generally pagan/neo-=pagan) or monotheistic. There are times in the myths and in magic when identification is sought after on purpose and not in ignorance. Who is to say when and when not a collective unconscious not only exists, but manifests. Sometimes we hear the expression “the air was so think you could cut it with a knife,” and that seems to me like the collective unconscious becoming conscious almost as if psychoid material which is then consisting of both mind and matter–it is then that commonality of sympathy is so strong or imbued. Whether it is Cakes and Wine in a pagan/neo-pagan rite or whether it is the act of Communion in the Catholic Mass, all are participating in a mystic and/or magical rite.

As for the negative projections, our first world culture seems full of them lately, in all the myriad ways that people project their Shadows onto the so-called “other.” I guess one would be a religious ego of superiority, someone saying/thinking “My religion is better than your religion and my religion is the true one with the true idea of God,” then treating the other as less-than through ridicule, shaming, banishing/banning from a church or organization, and even judgement getting so strong sometimes it can become in some people an obsession and then even lead to violence. But then most of us know this because we see it in the news, so it can become conscious.

“Changing Images of Man”–I hope this changes soon.

I did my best to not get political.

I did not touch upon all aspects of participation mystique–just a few ideas including one of my own I have pondered for quite some time (when participation mystique is not dubbed “ignorant” due to common images of “primitive” as if lacking awareness. In the positive sense I feel that participation mystique can be a heightened experience of the moment, a moment of transcendence. It is for me when the world feels most enchanted when it feels (when I feel) most alive in bliss. Likewise when I am immersed in my poetry or fiction-writing it is my bliss when I am utterly ensconced in it, its mystique. I will skip the politics here about other types of writing in our culture.