February 18, 2021 at 1:54 am #73615
Author and archetypal consultant Kristina Dryža is our guest in Conversations of a Higher Order this week for a discussion of “Metamorphosis: Dreaming the New Songs,” the most recent entry in JCF’s MythBlast essay series (click on link to read). Recognized as one of the world’s top female futurists, Kristina has always been fascinated by patterns and feels we are patterned beings in a patterned universe. This past summer at Mythologium 2020 she presented on “The Archetypal Necessity for Descending into Hades,” a theme she builds on in this week’s MythBlast.
I will get us started with a few questions and comments, but it will be your thoughts, reactions, observations and insights that expand this beyond just another interview into a communal exchange of ideas – true “conversations of a higher order.” Please feel free to join the discussion and engage Ms. Dryža directly with your questions and observations.
So let’s begin.
Kristina, before we delve into your essay, I’m curious about how and when you first became aware of Joseph Campbell?
Apart from a small circle of academics, artists, and archetypal psychologists, Campbell didn’t really enter the public consciousness here in the United States until some six months or so after his passing, when the Power of Myth interviews with Bill Moyers debuted to widespread acclaim on public television, along with the acknowledgement of Campbell’s influence by pop culture icons like filmmaker George Lucas and the Grateful Dead.
You were raised half a world away. How well known, if at all, is Joseph Campbell in Australia? And where did you first encounter his work? Given your archetypal perspective, did you come to Campbell by way of Carl Jung, or perhaps discover him in the course of earning a degree in anthropology at the University of Adelaide – or maybe something a little more frivolous and serendipitous? Do you recall what it was about his mythological perspective that first “clicked” for you?
Shifting focus to your essay, there is so much about it I love, starting with how you draw on Campbell’s observations to highlight the relationship between the symbolism in myth and the rhythms of nature. That rings true for so many of us. Yet you have served as a consultant in the business world; for so many in that setting, such ideas can seem completely foreign.
Part of the capitalist ethic seems based not so much on humanity as a part of nature, but humans as separate from and even against nature. We live on concrete slabs in city grids that are anything but natural; we take all necessary measures to protect ourselves from the dangers of the natural world, whether in the form of wild predators, raging forest fires, devastating storms, or life-sapping viruses. For most of us food comes from the supermarket and water out of a tap; we don’t walk trails but drive everywhere, on asphalt highways – and then spend most of our days in temperature-controlled settings staring into electronic devices rather than gazing out the window. Occasionally we go on brief vacations in spectacular settings that allow us to sample nature, but we don’t live in and consciously experience the rhythms of nature as part of our daily lives.
When consulting in the business word, where the default setting of so many employees and managers is often a sense that humans are, at best, divorced from nature, how do you present the value of embracing the rhythms and patterns of nature to to clients who may need convincing?
That seems a good place to start.February 20, 2021 at 11:30 am #73634
Thank you for the thoughtful questions Stephen. And hello dear audience! I look forward to being in conversation with you this week.
I found in my Inbox a horoscope I saved from 2013 by Rob Brezsny: “PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): After studying the myths and stories of many cultures throughout history, Joseph Campbell arrived at a few conclusions about the nature of the human quest. Here’s one that’s apropos for you right now: ‘The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.’ He came up with several variations on this idea, including this one: ‘The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.’ I urge you to consider making this your operative hypothesis for the coming weeks, Pisces.”
I’m sure that it’s like this for many people. You don’t know who Joseph Campbell is one day, and then the next day, you’re spending all your time wanting to know just exactly who this person is! And then a few years later he appeared in one of my dreams.
And something obviously ‘clicked’ as I cashed in my life insurance to go to ‘The Mythological Toolbox™ PlayShop’ at the Esalen Institute in 2016!!! I felt there would be far more safety and security found in the week at Big Sur, California with a group of strangers revisioning our hero’s journey than in any false security that the future could potentially provide. I find the myths protect me in a very different way and are a separate type of life insurance policy.
While I was raised in Australia, all my grandparents are Lithuanian and so I was vaguely familiar with the work of Marija Gimbutas and it was so wonderful to visit her and Campbell’s library that same year as I also travelled to Pacifica Graduate Institute for the ‘Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas’ conference. It was certainly a rite of passage for me. Now being in Lithuania during the pandemic (we are still currently in lockdown) and being able to connect to my ancestral and mythological roots in the old-growth forests on the Baltic Sea coast, it puts what first drew me to Campbell – the Grail Mysteries – into context.
Interestingly I purchased ‘The Flight of the Wild Gander’ during the PlayShop (where I also happened to partake in way too much of Campbell’s favourite whisky during his 112th birthday celebrations!) and the book travelled home with me to eventually sit on a bookshelf in Adelaide and is now in storage, never once having been opened. Reading the PDF to write the article for this MythBlast I realised how often we need life to initiate us before we can meet certain ideas, people and experiences. The book may have always been sitting there waiting for us to read, but we’re not always ready to meet the content that waits for us inside. An inner dimension first needs to be carved and hollowed out in us so that the words have a place to land. Can we be that empty vessel to receive the wisdom?
When I grew up Campbell was only known amongst a certain audience in Australia but now the popularised monomyth and films like ‘Finding Joe’ means that there’s a growing recognition amongst more people of the importance of developing a mythic consciousness and an archetypal eye, as well as engaging a poetic and symbolic imagination. After the PlayShop, as I travelled the furthest to attend, it was my responsibility to take some stones from our week-long death and rebirth initiation ritual at Esalen to Uluru, and so in some very tiny way, I feel that there is now a connection with Campbell’s work and the Australian soil.
Thank you also for your kind comments on my essay, Stephen. Like in nature and our own lives (personal and corporate), it can’t always be spring. But we don’t know how to make space in our psyches and in society for the destroyer archetype. Destruction is the right hand of creation. We can’t have constant creation, constant growth, nor constant spring. We need exnovation as much as we do innovation. (Exnovation is characterised by the deconstruction of systems, practices or technologies that no longer serve what wants to emerge.)
There are few spaces in the industrial growth society for rest, decay and putrefaction. These things run counter to the capitalist agenda and a growth economy. There’s rarely time for reflection, a harvesting of what’s been learned, nor the stillness that a fallow field requires as new growth seeds and buds. As the Persephone and Hades myth articulates, there’s the necessary abduction from engagement with a life lived solely on the surface. We need to know what calls us to our depths and we’re often positioned in Hades to learn to trust the cycles of nature and that what comes to life is seeded by what is unseen.
The liminal space is where transformation occurs for it’s the calling card of the fertile void. The process of decomposition returns richness to the soil, which in the meantime provides regeneration and is the midwife to many varieties of a renaissance (in the greater meaning of the word). We have to question though why doing nothing is often times linked to laziness, when in fallow times what’s occurring is highly constructive – but invisible – to the naked eye as new growth is germinating and waits to be born. The undoing, unlearning and unknowing of ourselves is the very compost for seeding the fecundity of imagination.
So how to bring this into a corporate setting? I usually begin with exploring how we are nature. What we breathe out affects the world around us: we exist within a greater ecosystem. All life breathes together. The cycle of birth, growth, full bloom, harvest, decay, death and rebirth occurs in the sun, moon, seasons, plants, animals, humans and businesses. And lack of rhythm can be disastrous in business.
We cannot break the patterns of nature, only ourselves against them. And once people admit and witness the cost of going against nature – as well as their own nature – and grieve what’s been lost, only then is there the possibility to make way for the new. By turning away from the obsession with infinite, linear growth on a finite planet and shifting our attention to new frames of growth – flux, constant change, death and rebirth (both individually and collectively) – we then begin to sense the fragile web of creation that yokes us all.
By living in alignment with the patterns of the natural world, and the illumination that the mythic and archetypal world bestows, we fixate less on prediction and concern ourselves more with presence. This enables us to better relax into the future as we learn to make the mysterious and the unknown our permanent home. Rather than constantly being consumed with ‘what’s next,’ we can instead focus on ‘what’s sacred.’
Thank you all for the listening ear. I very much look forward to hearing from you – Kristina.February 22, 2021 at 5:50 am #73633
I came to Joseph Campbell through my colleagues, the poets of San Francisco, in the 1970’s. We were all reading Campbell, Jung and the Jungians, Robert Graves etc. , fishing in the dark waters of world mythology and the “collective unconscious” to bring up material for our “deep image” poetry, filled with multi-colored mythological beasts….in the psychedelic 60’s we had aimed for the heights with a lot of strange artificial help, so we had to spend an equal time in the underworld in the next decade, grounding, sacrificing, repenting, incarnating, re-humanizing….W. B. Yeats, in “Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop”, has the lines “ ‘Fair and foul are near of kin/And fair needs foul!’ ” I cried….For nothing can be sole or whole/That has not been rent.” Yet let us not forget the “fair.” There is a higher world too, a Heaven as well as an Underworld; it’s just that you can’t rise to the heights in any stable way until you’ve descended into the depths. The traditional shaman is conversant with both worlds. St. Paul says, “My strength is perfected in weakness” (Corinthians 12:9). Likewise Jesus tells us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 24:12). In the higher world we see Eternity face-to-face; in the lower one we learn how to make the necessary sacrifices that let stay there. But Eternity itself is not limited to either world, to either height or depth; it lives in the Center, the Heart.
By the way, have you ever read the works of the Lithuanian philosopher/metaphysician/mythographer Algis Uzdavinys? If not, you have a real treat in store for you.
Charles UptonFebruary 22, 2021 at 12:44 pm #73632
Hello Kristina ,
I enjoy the anthropomorphic personification of the seasons . It is a perennial theme of our species. The artistic play with these allusions are a hallmark of the seamless transitions in poetry. I think it is one of the first patterns life perceived as it evolved through the ebb and flow of its 3.5 billion year journey on Earth. We are a product of that journey. Our nervous system evolved to make coherent sense of the seasonal data. Language evolved to convey knowledge and wisdom gleaned over generational time. Myths are the personifications of these conversations of a higher order. Such poetry is awe inspiring, it moves the spirit of our species to flights of wonder on high.
Thank you for your myth blast
Mythic imagery abides , bodhisattva of the axis mundis … Arise … from the waters of creation like Mu Pangaea , stepping stones of life , stepping stones of civilizations …
liquid water Rock … are the constituent components of Life incarnate. Lots of fun to track its forms.
“Our understanding of life on exoplanets and exomoons must be based on what we know about life on Earth. Liquid water is the common ecological requirement for Earth life. Temperature on an exoplanet is the first parameter to consider both because of its influence on liquid water and because it can be directly estimated from orbital and climate models of exoplanetary systems. Life needs some water, but deserts show that even a little can be enough. Only a small amount of light from the central star is required to provide for photosynthesis. Some nitrogen must be present for life and the presence of oxygen would be a good indicator of photosynthesis and possibly complex life.”
The Three Graces
At what point does mythic imagery become cliche ??? Does Jadedness pervade familiarity ?February 22, 2021 at 6:43 pm #73631
Thank you for that rich and generous response to my questions! I so appreciate the work you are doing out in the “real world,” helping others make those connections with the rhythms and cycles of nature.
Your essay in particular rings true for me when you connect the death-and-rebirth sojourn in the Underworld with the enforced solitude so many hundreds of millions of us have experienced during Covid lockdowns:
One of the purposes of myth (whether the myth be of self-narrative or of the collective) is to help us to truly feel our lives. And for those who have experienced lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic with consequent, extended lengths of time in solitude–or felt a sense of internal emptiness or vacuum of soul–the invitation has been extended to more deeply sense into ourselves, while also feeling into the entire beingness of the planet, and indeed, of the cosmos.”
Clearly, myth does have relevance today – as do your words on what this moment offers:
The underworld is the most fertile ground for our metamorphosis. Acting as an alchemical vessel, times of solitude and inner desolation invite us to explore what it is that must change in us and take another form. So much depends on our capacity to relinquish harmful and obsolete patterns and behaviors, for we know that every attempt to deal with challenges in outmoded ways will, ultimately, fail us.
Without engaging ritually with this realm, the psyche remains flat and one-dimensional.”
For those who might not know how to ritually to engage with this realm, or where to begin, could you expand on this – perhaps suggest some ideas, maybe some practices or tools that would help?February 22, 2021 at 7:09 pm #73630
Thank you for your message. I wholeheartedly agree that we must first descend to the depths if we are to rise to the heights in a stable way. If we transcend without first redeeming what’s been neglected, then the transformation is incomplete. There was a need for Persephone to marry the darkness and move out of the fierce identification with a life lived solely on the surface, on the horizontal plane. The only way for her to be free as Demeter’s daughter is to eat the pomegranate seeds. To only be free as the daughter of life is not possible, one must also know death. And not just know death, but be its consort and intimate partner. There’s an ancient Mesopotamian saying – “No one comes back from the underworld unmarked” – and I feel the underworld provides us with a certain verticality so that we may perceive what you so eloquently wrote in your response.
No, I haven’t read the works of Algis Uzdavinys, but now I shall. Thank you for the recommendation.
Very best, Kristina.February 22, 2021 at 7:25 pm #73629
Thank you for your message. Yes, we are a product of seasonal ebbs and flows. I feel today though that we’ve often lost the ability to sense ourselves into the seasons, other than say through seasonal eating. How can we feel these rhythms viscerally? Can we internally sense ourselves blossoming, ripening, maturing and waning? Can we enter into our own seeding and sprouting? Can we simultaneously experience the musical and poetic moods that accompany the seasonal transitions? And how can society and our environment provide us with an invitation to reflect, re-image and re-imagine these seasonal energies? To vision and re-vision our experience of time?
There’s a potent, dreamy quality that comes from living in images, myths, symbols, fairy tales, the incantational rhythmic nature of poetry, musical melodies and the seasons. They contain worlds calling to us beyond the quotidian life. But can we unplug from our devices for long enough to notice them?
Very best, Kristina.
PS This comment on the YouTube clip you posted says it well. “Possibly the greatest cover of this song ever produced. Also possibly the most awful video ever made.”February 23, 2021 at 2:11 pm #73628
Thank you for your reply.
The “sing a new song” concept brings to mind psalm 96. Is the allusion intentional ? I think every generation and individual needs to understand this. Only then can they appreciate their position in the procession of the choir of the ages and appreciate the harmonies and time signatures being manifested.
Metamorphosis brings visions of Ovid , Apuleius , Butterflies 🦋 landing on Blooming Lotus. Fertilizing while feeding on the Beauty and the nectar … Oh , if only Persephone were Golden !!! But alas She bares the mantle of The Black Madonna …
R³February 23, 2021 at 7:44 pm #73627
Thank you for your message. Maybe to begin we can attempt to be on the same page by questioning what is a myth? Joseph Campbell said myths represents the human search for what is true, significant and meaningful. Christine Downing saw the Greek view of the gods as energies that affect everyone. For Carl Jung, the primary function of myth is psychological – to shed light on the workings of the unconscious. And according to James Hillman, “polytheistic psychology can give sacred differentiation to our psychic turmoil.” For him myths are aide-mémoires i.e. sounding boards employed “for echoing life today or as bass chords giving resonance to the little melodies of life.”
Myths move us from the conceptual to the experiential. They provide a larger container as there’s many characters and there’s room for them all – our internal contradictions needn’t tear us apart. We don’t go to myths for ‘the’ answer singular but for wisdom and deeper universal insight, which we often can’t access when we’re in our own personal despair. They become a valuable touchstone, and as David Miller said, “Myths don’t ground, they open.”
Others describe myths as stories that are not true outside but are true inside. They are metaphorically meaningful. They are stories that have significance in life. We could say that we are all ancient Greeks, or ancient Egyptians, or ancient Hebrews. Our collective psyche responds to the images in myths. Myths are descriptive of our unconscious processes and they link inner and outer worlds via personification.
When we engage mythic material it allows for an encounter with the unconscious. So how do we understand ourselves as reflected by the gods and goddesses in these myths? One way is to have imaginative encounters with these mythic figures. We can actually turn our emotions into images. For example, my despair feels like Demeter’s, my shock feels like Persephone’s, this task feels Sisyphean.
Symbolism can bring structure to emotional confusion and can help us hold our deeper psychological experiences. So can we engage myths to help us perceive what’s actually going on in our life right now? Because even though we may not recognise it, we’re nursed by these archetypal images. They provide a psychological cradle for the lived experience. Quite simply, with no underlying story, we’re more anxious. It’s ‘you’ as an individual struggling on a long, adventurous journey, not ‘you’ as a representation of Odysseus in Homer’s ‘Odyssey.’ The underlying myth provides the cradle to view life as a divine drama. And our lives are lived on the back of a bigger story when the personal meets the mythical. The creative mythology, which Campbell so eloquently spoke about, is the need to connect to deeper archetypal patterns as they form the blueprint for why myths matter. They’re part of our cultural forms and myths are the most fundamental patterns of society.
So how do we think mythically and sense archetypally? How do we wear glasses of the mythos and not solely the logos? Firstly, literally. Reading Stephen Fry’s book ‘Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece’ is a good start. And secondly, metaphorically we can use the images in myths and dreams to explore our inner lives as they help us move from viewing the human experience in a flat way to instead be a lived, embodied experience, which is why Jesus and other great teachers spoke in parables – as it engages the feelings and imagination. These universal patterns can then come through in a fresh, alive and spirited way. We get forced into literalism if we can’t grasp the metaphorical. These mythic figures are metaphors of imagination and allow us to view movements in our psyches, if we can only perceive them.
Very best, Kristina.February 23, 2021 at 8:19 pm #73626
Thank you for the message. No, it wasn’t intentional but I do love the U2 song ’40’ with the lyrics:
“I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song?”
This version live in Chicago is my favourite (with Yahweh): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEV-Y3b_hvw
Very best, Kristina.
PS In Lithuania we have the Black Madonna of Vilnius.February 23, 2021 at 9:07 pm #73625
Myths move us from the conceptual to the experiential.”
💫💜💥February 23, 2021 at 9:56 pm #73624
Great Band and song !!!
I like that some of the Black Madonnas of Europe have their origins in more ancient mythic traditions.
Robert R ReisterFebruary 24, 2021 at 1:27 pm #73623
I enjoy back stories.
U2 song 40
“The lyrics are a modification of the Bible’s Psalm 40. The song was released as a commercial single only in Germany, simply to promote U2’s appearance at the Loreley Festival in 1983”
“This was the last song written for the album. They had already used an extra week of studio time and needed one more song in a hurry, so Bono opened a bible, read from Psalm 40 of Psalms of David, and they put it to music.”
U2 Band name
“Supposedly, Steve Averill, a punk rock musician and family friend of Clayton’s, had suggested six potential names from which the band chose “U2.”
There is no solidly validated reason for the name choice other than perhaps its brevity, intentional ambiguity and opportunities for interpretations.
I couldn’t find any further explanation on U2’s official website or in the book, U2 by U2.
But there are many references that might have influenced the choice. Best known to Americans is that a U2 is a type of spy plane used by the United States in the 1960’s which was made famous when a 1960 international incident. A U.S. Lockheed U-2 plane over the Soviet Union was shot down over Russia and resulted in the pilot being taken as a prisoner during the Cold War. The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady”,
A U2 is also a dry-cell battery type now known in the U.S. as a D battery.
A number of European railway systems have a U2 as part of their designations.
U2 can also be seen as being a version of “you too” referring to the audience and its role in the band’s musical experience
I have also seen a reference to a U2 being a government form used in Ireland – but that seems to more likely be the origin, as we have explicated, for UB40. “
Have you found what your looking for ??? HERE
R³February 25, 2021 at 9:05 pm #73622mythistorianParticipant
Thanks so much for allowing this chance to engage us, your audience, on your latest mythblast contribution. I enjoyed reading Metamorphosis: Dreaming the New Songs thoroughly and can readily see the way you apply your insights into archetypal patterns of beauty and wholeness directly into your writing—for one could just as well sing your essay as read it in silence!
The last Campbell quote in your mythblast, however, did provoke in me a critical reaction:
“For myself,” Campbell writes, “I believe that we owe both the imagery and the poetical insights of myth to the genius of the tender-minded; to the tough-minded only their reduction to religion.” (Flight of the Wild Gander 55)
As all of us who have studied Jungian psychology know, this old distinction between “tough and tender-minded,” formulated by William James in the late 19th century, became “updated” in the difference between the extraverted and introverted types in Jung’s typological theory. But Jung himself disliked the way in which such typological categories or “instrumentarium” could be used to divide humanity in wholesale numbers and reduce the concrete differences of personality into rigid ideological abstractions. But that is precisely what Campbell does in the quote above—does he not? And if we are specially interested in restoring a sense of wholeness, how could we raise our glass to the introverts of the world only, that is, at the exclusion of the extraverted exponents of our human kind?
Going a little deeper with Campbell’s quote, we may ask whether it really is the case that extroverts are incapable of mythic consciousness and can only serve to bastardize it—as Campbell pejoratively understood the sense of religion—with their literal-mindedness? Does not the literal also belong in a genuine sense of wholeness? Otherwise, our sense of being “whole” would remain imaginary and not an actual existential reality. It seems to me that in a properly integrated self, the literal becomes just as vital as the symbolic—especially for introverts!
Logically speaking, that is, quite apart from Campbell’s personal convictions, the depreciation of the “literal” goes hand in hand with the depreciation of Matter—our Great Mother—and our material bodies. One might even say—and many Jungians have said— that such a bias is pure patriarchy or even “misogynistic” in this regard, even while still nursing this same self-same ideological bias against the literal or against the “tough-minded” perspective on life!
So in the last analysis, how can we endorse such a rigid distinction between myth and religion, the symbolic and the literal, as Campbell does. Although he is not alone on this, for Jungianism in general and archetypalism in particular also seem to share this same ideological phantasy, one that paints the “literal” as somehow the enemy of the soul. I would love to hear your thoughts about all of this and more.
Thanks so much in advance!February 26, 2021 at 9:01 am #73621
Thank you for your message Robert and the back stories.
A delight as U2 are one of my favourite bands. Often when I am struggling with a project they are my ‘go to’ for inspired background music.
A few of my favourite songs from them are ‘Original of the Species,’ ‘Window in the Skies’ and ‘Ultraviolet (Light My Way)’ – and I especially love The Killers cover of this song. And if it’s a particularly tough project, I play the ‘Ăhk-to͝ong Ba͞y-bi’ covers loud and on repeat.
And these two quotes from Bono really speak to me. “The problem with rock now is that it’s trying to be cool. But clear thoughts and big melodies – if they come from a true place, they not only capture the instant, they become eternal in a way.” And about the making of the song ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ where Bono said it’s unfinished and that there are things he would change about the song’s lyrics. “The frontman of the Irish band revealed what producer Brian Eno told him to reassure him about the lyrics. Brian said, ‘Incomplete thoughts are generous because they allow the listener to finish them,’ Bono revealed. As a songwriter I have to realise that the greatest invitation is an invocation.”
Very best, Kristina.
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