Reply To: Incarcerated, But Not Imprisoned,” with Mythologist Dennis Slattery, Ph.D.”
Dennis; I think the way you beautifully phrased this whole overview and stitched it into one small condensed narrative of just a few short sentences identifies the very heart of this issue:
“the enchantment of art to offer us a different cosmos by which to process the flawed one we are in….. how the stories of the past…..entangle our own stories in the present and create a webbing with these eternal narratives that flex with us over time. By means of these narratives…..we glimpse shards of a different world, elegant but not free of flaws; it is a moment of myth-making when we find analogies by which to gauge our own reality…. That is the role of art: to open our vision to realities under our noses.”
“Mythmaking” indeed; especially of our own lived personal myth as you so precisely identified I think is our timeless human challenge. This is the desire of the “Self as the regulating Archetypal center of wholeness” to know and express itself through this experience. It is more than just meaning and purpose as Joseph explained to Bill Moyer’s in “The Power of Myth”: it is the rapture of being alive in it’s highest sense. To know that your are one with this eternal and timeless dimension through which Art is the portal. And this experience informs us that we are more than just a little piece of carbon or biological matter; but that we are interconnected to this huge web of space and time and experience that has gone before us and through which we can now offer our own contribution of: picture, song, and verse to leave behind to witness that we were here.
This I think is what our personal story is all about and attempts to communicate to our inner world. Our few little moments in the grand scheme of things are so much more than just mere existence as Jung points out when he says: “like a light in the dark”; that we are like a candle to those who come after that speaks to our higher nature and calling if we can but find it; than just to suffer going through the motions of mere day to day survival of the wasteland. That life “can” have meaning and make sense and have a purpose if only we have the eyes to see it; to have the ears to hear it’s song that calls to us from the heart and lets us know the power we possess if only we can break through our own boundaries that hold us back. And that it is through the importance of our struggles we are able to know and define who and what we are and what our legacy will be to any who come after.
As you so eloquently express “this” is art’s mission and we are it’s carriers with our own message to offer something of value to others who would hear what we have to say. And if we can as Joseph so profoundly put it: “participate joyfully in the suffering of others” we will have left something more of true value than just the continuous broken repetition of ego’s clashing against each other jockeying for position to let others know how important they are while the gifts of the garden lay spread upon the ground right in front of them unseen.
I often wonder when people put such high monetary value on a piece of art did they understand what it was attempting to communicate; not what it’s financial value is worth. A child’s scribbled drawing as an expression of their love can have more meaning and value to parent or loved one to whom it was offered and has no price tag that can be put upon it. Do we hear the birds sing of a beautiful spring morning or smell the flowers and foliage after a fresh summer rain; do we hear and feel the crunch of the dry leaves of a fall’s evening’s sunset or the touch of soft winter snowflakes as they surround our senses with quiet contemplation? When we see the birds migrate do we not long to go with them to a place that only they know? And when we see the suffering of another do we not at least in some small measure feel their pain?
To be alive and in the world can mean many things to different people; but if our questions are turned inward toward a deeper domain of reflection does not art meet us there like an old friend asking us how it can be service? The Grail is right here in front of us if we can pierce through the outer veil of surface display as Joseph shows us so often throughout so much of his work. And a life lived through it’s own volition and not something put on you by society or someone else is an awakening to this dimension of our own myth he talks about. And these are the questions our story can answer for us if only we can learn how to listen. That’s what the “Call of the Adventure” is all about of finding that inner “Bliss” thing that speaks to you and following it. It’s not out there somewhere but within you.
There is a wonderful little passage in Michael Tom’s: “An Open life” on page 110; where he is talking with Toms about finding your own model for the construction of your life. Toms asks: “Isn’t it important to respect our own uniqueness?”
Joseph answers: “I think that’s the most important thing of all. That’s why you really can’t follow a guru. You can’t ask somebody to give (The Reason), but you can find one for yourself: you decide what the meaning of your life is to be. People talk about the meaning of life; there is no meaning of life—there are lots of meanings of different lives, and you must decide what you want your own to be.”
There is a terrific version of the Hero/Call/Quest motif he gives in one of his lectures where he talks about the “formula of quest”. He says it starts when life dries up and something is missing so the hero goes in quest to find out what it is and make it his own. It is a solitary call by nature and you must become a detective, a hunter following a path into your own dark forest where you don’t know where you are going or what it is you are looking for but you are following this razor’s edge of your night-sea journey to find your grail castle where the answers or illuminations reside. (And the important thing here he stresses is that “there are no set rules” for how this motif unfolds.) It is unique to you alone.
In other words you can look at what Carl Jung says; you can read a piece of literature for a reference, you can meditate or take up an art form for the engagement and insight, or just be who you are and follow the path of your own instincts; but this call of your adventure has to be coming right out of your own life and not someone else’s. As he mentions when talking about following one’s bliss: “your notion of your bliss comes from what the push out of your own existence is informing you”. Not what the guru or the preacher or whatever social “virtue manager” is attempting to put on you about how you should live your life or what the value system that it promotes is attempting to coerce you into. You may not know what it is that’s ticking inside you; but you can feel something is not quite right and this call will become more insistent as time goes on if you refuse to listen. It can be early or later in your life but we are a continuing work in progress; and the psyche will have it’s way whether we listen to it’s message or not.
As you and I have both been discussing our times are so very difficult in this regard because not only are the different value systems in conflict with each other; the moorings that once provided the spiritual glue that held them in place for society to look for guidance are evaporating and no longer work (if personalized and interpreted in the “ole time way” that is concretely instead of metaphorically utilized). The issue is not about whether the right hand path of the village compound will work just fine for some or not; but whether it is utilized in the proper way.
But the left hand path of the hero/quest is the dangerous one because there is no safety net and you are are on your own. Magical aid of the mythical world may intervene at some point by offering support; but in the end it is the lone hero quest that must complete the task the inner world is asking for. “Science” has made the personal God as deity and his rules dysfunctional and irrelevant and it is now up to the individual who must take charge for their own responsibility of what is important for the meaning and conduct of their own lives; and as Joseph puts it so succinctly: “we are now in a freefall into the future”.
Much of our current struggle we’ve been discussing about now is against the machine and the technology and the political systems that want to dominate us. And we must learn to live within these realities we now find ourselves in by as Joseph mentioned concerning Luke Skywalker: “of not going over to the dark side”; of not capitulating or relinquishing our individuality and humanity for their purposes. And whether it includes integrating our shadow or opening up our humanity as you illustrated above this song of art continually helps to light our way forward. This was another wonderful post from you Dennis; and it is so good to be here with you to share it.
Here is a quick little clip from the Power of Myth that was added recently to the JCF YouTube channel that addresses some of these themes the individual has to navigate in thinking about god and the universe that Joseph describes.