Norland, Stephen, Everyone,
This Mythblast is so rich; as I read it I felt I was taken from the views of the spiritual and psychic strata from heaven to hell: It begins with the monk in mango forest and the brahmin then works its way down to the untouchables, the outcasts who shovel feces and dead animals or anything diseased. The photo of the monk in the mango garden is like paradise, and the orange glow in the photo accentuates the idea of life all aglow; this seems to me to represent the color of a living myth: as Nolan states, it is alive, alive in the psyche, and there is an immediacy of experience with the living myth that feels (imo) less remote. This is not to say I do not feel a strong affinity with the myths of Pompeii, as the dead myths can still provoke and elicit a strong response through the symbols. The symbols of the dead myths are however perhaps less known–to know is to own in the now; Jung stated that a symbol was the unknown (meaning is open for interpretation) whereas a sign is the known (we already know what the symbol signifies within a particular instance or experience). For instance, since I was raised in the Catholic church I knew (was conditioned through repetition) what to do when I walked in the church and dipped my fingers in holy water. The bowl of water that was blessed by the priest was there waiting for parishioners to bless themselves with. Some made the sign of the cross with it, but old traditional was to make the triple sign of the cross in the bridge between the eyes (much like blessing one’s third eye if not just plain vision!), then the lips (to bless the speech), and then over the heart (to bless one’s feelings of the heart). This felt to me like a living myth back then because I did it in the “now” and I “owned” it, carrying through with the behavior of the ritual. I am thinking of what in those days to me felt like a dead myth and what I come up with is this: The Latin Mass. I often attended Latin Mass with my grandmother Mary who knew the whole thing by heart. To her it was a living myth since she knew what it all meant, whereas to me it was a dead myth because I did not understand a word of it but only knew it was from the more distant past in Rome. However, recollecting now, I can add that in a slight sense it it became to some degree a living myth to me because I saw it alive through my grandmother’s eyes and heart.
One thing that can make some dead myths come alive then is ritual, and Stephen has remarked on this at some point before in the discussions. When we actually participate in the mythic/spiritual rites, we bring it to life as a living myth. How perfectly precise the rite today matches the rites of the initiates or priests or spiritual practitioners in the old or ancient world may not always be the most necessary thing, because if we still get the meaning of the symbols through our psychic impressions of the symbols or acts, then we are still receiving the heart of the myth–its art of hearing with the inner ear the voice of the daimon or our inner selves, when it speaks to our souls and our hearts feel it echo in its chambers–the ‘tabernackle of the heart’, as a pagan/earth spiritualist and Qabalist friend of mine used to say. If we come close to using the symbols in the same (similar) way, we can evoke the same meaning–interpreted through our own psyches much as what the ancients may have been feeling. Even those who attempt the old rites of some cultures with the intent of merely “enacting” the rites (such as Celtic rites, Egyptian rites, or any of the old pagan cultural rites) end up feeling some extent of participation mystique and as if they have actually entered the mysteries. Does it depend on belief? Maybe for some to some extent, but it also seems as if nonetheless the symbols speak to the psyche and thus frequently to the soul (for the sake of those who separate them here–I would have to quote more of James Hillman for that probably).
When we evoke those same feelings that the ancients felt in the past rites or symbols, this then could be part of what the archetypal psyche is. Our human psyches have the tendency to “think” in archetypal fashion–our psyches are indeed part of the archetypal pool. The archetypal psyche, as a poetry professor Richard Messer of Bowling Green State University who had also studied at the Jungian Swiss Institute once said to a class I was in, we have all seen the same sun, the same moon, the same forms of thing such as a tree, for centuries, and these images span the ages; he said that strong poetry or successful poetry utilizes the universal appeal of the archetypes. While universal, the images/symbols still speak to us personally through our personal associations through our personal experience, thus we have both the collective psyche and the individual psyche–but there are other considerations too to the collective psyche such as cultures and societies or religious groups, for that matter. Rituals are one way of resurrecting the (a) dead myth.
This brings me to the idea of this caste system. I am not looking up quotes from Jung here, but just speaking from my own individual experience which I guess is also universal experience for most of us (since we are not monks or brahmins per say!): I do suppose we all feel like brahmins at times and like the undesirables sometimes. Some of us might be actual orphans or some of us might be orphaned in another respect. We might feel like a brahmin in one situation and like an untouchable in another situation. We all have our domains, perhaps of where we feel most high and where we feel most low. We all have things we would like to hide or keep hidden. We would like to hide some of the complexes in our Shadows (according to Jung) due to things about ourselves we would like to keep hidden. Maybe when they come out sometimes and someone sees those things, we feel like an untouchable, feeling like the ‘other’ person will not accept us/like us/think we are okay (remember the 60s I’m Okay/You’re Okay? 🙂 If we cannot change the situation of what it is about us that makes us feel at our lowest lows, perhaps we can change our reactions to it to work through the complex. So the personal alchemy of change could make for the process of ripening in the individual psyche and affect the collective psyche in that process just as the collective affects the individual psyche. All the mangoes could rot on the trees if not picked in the right time. As far as the mythic mangoes or the mythic orange mythologems of mangoes, the symbols are always ripe for the picking–and sometimes they do pick us! (Maybe we were born into a particular culture that believes this or that, or follows a certain religion, etc.) Whether we “eat” our god when we take Communion at the Catholic Mass, or whether we eat Cakes and Wine at a pagan/earth centered spirituality ceremony/circle, there is something there to imbibe insofar as the archetypal symbols. Both these symbols mean that the god or the goddess or the spirit of the earth and the cosmos nurture us.
Then there are those myths that are best left dead and not enacted or resurrected (literally) anymore–that is another story that is the story of Abraham thinking God told him to sacrifice his son. I have a cousin who is a Christian minister who told me that that story marks the time when human sacrifice was no longer to be done and that the sacrifice/crucifixion of Christ was the reminder of that and no more animal sacrifices either. Repetitive enactment of old rites like Easter as just the acknowledgement is the part that is kept alive of the Crucifixion, though, just as pagans will celebrate the same rites going around the Wheel of the Year from Spring Equinox through Winter Solstice. Traditionalists will repeat the old rites/same rites year by year, and others will make it fresh and new each year by changing or adding something, but both traditionalists and non-traditionalists will probably invoke the 4 directions prior to the rite and draw the Circle–just like Catholics will use the holy water and genuflect before Christ on the cross.
The symbols have meaning that gets carried on down through the generations and for the most part all is needed is the symbol to be affected, but to understand it consciously is why we study and discuss the myths. I think those who are not interested in discussing mythology are those that do not feel the desire to understand it the way some of us do. Some of us want to know it, to know the mysteries–for whatever reason. Some people ask why study these old “dead” myths–perhaps they just don’t have the same desire to understand that some of us do. I would love to hear people describe why it is they feel pulled or called to know the old myths, whether a feeling or what you think about it.