Reply To: To the The Female God of the Labyrinth,” with Joanna Gardner, Ph.D.”
Stephen, thank you so much for sharing your labyrinth walks. I’m glad you received the Lady’s sword of discernment! Reading your story let me vicariously experience the feeling of discernment as well, and the feeling of coming back from the brink. Sharing stories like this can be immensely healing for both the teller and the listener.
I love the Campbell quote from Parabola that you cited, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. Mythic images and day-to-day images do mirror each other. It’s only natural, really, because day-to-day images inspire myths at least as much as images from dreams, visions, and imagination do.
Regarding practical advice for living “with the myths in your mind,” as Campbell says, I think the first step is to get to know some myths. You don’t need an encylopedic knowledge of mythology — although if that sounds fun, go for it! But you do need some awareness of mythic images in order to be able to connect them with the day-to-day.
The second step is, in the course of daily life, to find occasions to zoom the camera of your consciousness back, so to speak. Survey your situation with a wider lens. This can provide a sense of psychological spaciousness that’s very helpful for matching mythic images with life images. It’s like the children’s game Memory (which reminds me of Mnemosyne, goddess of memory and mother of the muses! but that’s another story). In the game, there’s a deck of cards that contains 2 of each kind of card. You place all the cards face down on the table. When it’s your turn, you flip one card over to see its image, then another card hoping for a match. If you match, you keep the cards. If you don’t match, the cards get turned back over. As the game proceeds, you begin to start remembering where you saw each image, and you begin matching cards. In a similar way, life situations can remind you of images and metaphors you’ve seen in myth, then you just have to remember where to find the myth in your memory and turn its card over.
Finally, it helps to allow the dividing line between the literal world and the imaginal world to soften. Let images be real, let reality be images, and let both of them be metaphor and poetry. This, I think is the “poetic understanding” that Campbell refers to in Goddesses quote. Poetry, myth, and mytho-poetry occur just outside and all around the every-day — again, zooming the camera of consciousness back to take in a bigger picture. It also reminds me of what Alan Watts calls “floodlight consciousness,” versus the more typical “spotlight consciousness” of focus and concentration. A floodlight view of reality and myth can illuminate the many connections between the two realms.
Thanks again for sharing your story, Stephen. I’m looking forward to reading more reflections about labyrinths and walking them!