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Reply To: The Air We Breathe


Richard; I definitely hear you on this one; and I’m going to defer to Stephen on any added nuances concerning what Joseph’s final or definitive thoughts were on this. But I definitely have a few which I think have to do with his idea of what he called the: “Left-Hand Path” of the individual quest. One of the things I’ve seen develop over the years as Joseph’s work and ideas have become more well known is there has been a tendency to codify or “thou-shalt” certain: concepts, terms, or themes, that he has become known for within modern culture such as: “follow your bliss”, and “the hero journey, quest or adventure”; so that there has evolved a kind of what he might have called a “virtue manager” approach. In other words it has become in a way personalized or concretized to the extent that a personal must follow a certain kind of strict set of steps or specific order of sequenced experiences for their approach to be validated as: “the way”. So that if something is either left out or done in a way other than this specific prescription it’s somehow inauthentic. And I don’t think that is the message he was trying to explain or deliver at all. As a matter of fact to my way of thinking it goes against his maverick approach to the way he lived; and as a “Comparative Mythologist” in the things he tried to leave behind. One of the things he said was: “There is no one way; there are lots of ways; and you have to decide what you want yours to be.”

What I get from his ideas is that the individual is following their own intuition; and that is paramount because you are not doing what you are “told” but following your own instincts; like a kind of detective solving a mystery; except that mystery is actual your life’s call to you to seek your own destiny; and that destiny is the potential that lies within you that is asking to be fulfilled; and part of the mission you might say is for you figure out what it’s message is telling you and to answer it. And you are the one who gets to decide the meaning of your life; not the religions or the dogmas that surround you; and I think that includes also some of the prescriptions surrounding the way some of Joseph’s ideas have been interpreted. Following your bliss; “the push out of your own existence” as he put it; it’s incredibly hard sometimes; full of agony and heartache and pain; but you get something for staying on that path that’s calling to you; you get the realizations that: this is what I need; this is who I am; and this is where I need to go no matter what; even though sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing!

To know what a metaphor is was one of the main things Joseph stressed concerning religion; and like science there is a new “work in progress” version – like the ever-changing of the seasons of life coming into being all the time. You are unique; and that is an important concern he emphasized; so that to me it would seem like your headache is actually a good thing in the larger picture; and (although probably aggravating); it is a signal you are going through this metaphoric alchemical process of figuring out if you are on the right track or not. Life’s funny like that because sometimes what you think something is saying may really be telling you something entirely different. But seeing the road-signs; reading this mystery road-map “has no script”; and you are figuring it out as you go. (Humor of course can be a great help in all of this; because as he says: “it gives you spiritual distance”; you just may not always feel like laughing at time.) Something definitely worthy of remembering; especially after all the bangs and bruises one accumulates along the way.

History is great for giving us background and a backstory for getting a sense of something; but Joseph spent his life trying to understand the messages of what the world’s myths were saying within a much larger context; they were the metaphors of heros just like we all are to be. Being and non-being are dual; but Joseph’s point was what we are seeking to understand goes past all that. The world is an old old story; and what I get from Joseph is that our job is to figure out our own path; making it up as we go by listening to what’s coming from inside; and that the answers we need will come from following that. And at the end of our journey our life validates those whether those clues that we followed; those experiences that we had; were written by the right author or not; and that author is you just like it is me and everyone else. One can say it’s the one great story; or that we are all interconnected by this “net of gems” or what ever metaphor work’s best; but if we do not answer that call that comes from our own inside how will we ever know it’s relevance to the one life we have been given the privilege to live.

Richard; I don’t know if any of my thoughts adequately address your questions but that is what they seem to be saying to me and I hope they are in small way helpful.

(I’m going to leave a piece of text in a separate post taken from one of my favorite sources for understanding many of Joseph’s ideas that may have some relevance to your questions that is taken from an interview Joseph did for Parabola Magazine back in December of 1976; and since it is now no longer available for view online; it will have the address of the entire piece listed at the bottom for purchase for those who may be interested.)

In case there is a copyright concern and the below (section) of that piece has to be deleted here is that address:
From Parabola Volume 1, No. 2, “Magic,” Spring 1976. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.