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Myth: The Grammar of Creativity,” with Bradley Olson, Ph.D.”

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    Bradley Olson, Ph.D. – writer, depth psychologist, editor of JCF’s MythBlast essay series, and host of Pathways with Joseph Campbell, the flagship program in JCF’s MythMaker Podcast Network – is once joining us in Conversations of a Higher Order to discuss this week’s MythBlast: “Myth: The Grammar of Creativity” (click on title to read).

    Though I’ll open the discussion, please keep in mind this is not an interview, but an opportunity for readers to share impressions, observations, insights and questions with Dr. Olson about his MythBlast – a true “conversation of a higher order.”

    Brad, your essay this week is thoughtful and thought-provoking – a pleasure to read, and to ponder.

    No surprise you can count me among the friends who view Creative Mythology as their favorite Joseph Campbell work. The three earlier volumes in The Masks of God tetralogy examine the differences, as well as similarities, in the way mythic themes and imagery are announced and expressed in cultures active in different periods and places throughout history – but in this final volume of the series, Campbell instead offers clues as to how an individual in today’s post-mythological world (artists and poets and writers in particular) might draw on that repository of mythic lore to construct one’s own “grammar of creativity” (to borrow your apt phrase).

    There are so many ideas introduced in your essay that call to me; this, however, is what immediately leaps out:

    I prefer to understand myth more as a mode of thought or a condition of imagining rather than an explicit narrative containing a traditional, historical, or even metaphysical, body of knowledge.”

    This brain-bending epiphany captures the essence of Creative Mythology. Campbell’s focus there is not on explaining and understanding the old tales, but more on how to think mythologically, which changes the way one perceives, experiences, and engages the world:

    This way of seeing is the way of genius, the way of art, the way of perfect objectivity, the way of the world eye, and is not to be confused either with intellectual abstraction or with allegorical reference.” (Creative Mythology 82)

    No surprise that comes with a caveat:

    But for those unable to bear its impact, which annihilates momentarily the entire world and world-orientation of the self-protecting, self-advancing biological-political individual, the consequence is madness.” (ibid)

    Though the specific launching pad for Campbell’s observations above is a discussion of aesthetic arrest, his comments seem particularly relevant to your subject – and that warning raises a question:

    Over the two decades I’ve been involved with JCF, I’ve encountered a significant number of wonderful, well-intentioned individuals who love Campbell and are drawn to the woo-woo elements of myth. In fact, in the wider world, there are times when it feels as if magical thinking has become the new norm: from “happy happy joy joy” practitioners of what I call “wishcraft” (positive thinking on steroids), to the tortured fantasies of QAnon adherents, a sizable segment of the population seems to inhabit a post-factual world.

    Though I believe anyone who reads your essay with a discerning eye should be able to pick up on this, would you mind taking a moment to draw a clear distinction, if there is any, between thinking mythologically (myth as a mode of thought) and magical thinking?

    Bradley Olson

      First, Thank you, Stephen. Your introductions are always thoughtful and evocative, and they set up authors to elaborate on their thoughts and ideas so well. Your moderation is itself very artful.

      There are so many things going through my mind as I read your introduction. So let’s go back to Campbell’s caveat for a moment. The way of art, the way of seeing, the way of perfect objectivity, which annihilates momentarily the entire world and world-orientation, has embedded within itself, madness. Why does he say this? There are a couple of reasons why I think Campbell would offer such an admonition.

      First, the “perfect objectivity” required necessarily results in an act of self annihilation. Human consciousness is irreducibly subjective, and to move into a place of “perfect objectivity” demands complete self-abnegation or ego-sacrifice. For a period of time, one ceases to exist as a self-aware individual. The tricky part is that I don’t think this can necessarily be a conscious choice. It seems as though it must happen more or less spontaneously.

      Secondly, it leads to madness those who are unable to bear what Freud called that “oceanic feeling” in which “a sensation of eternity,” a feeling of “being one with the external world as a whole” exists. Now, the following is my own anecdotal explanation of why some return from such an experience with a sense of the transcendent, and why some others have a psychotic break. In terms of what it means, a psychotic break with reality means losing contact with reality, such as hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, or feeling something that has no external correlate (i.e., hallucinations) or believing something to be true that is false, fixed, and fantastic (i.e., a delusion) or being unable to sequence one’s thoughts or control a flight of ideas that becomes increasingly tangential, or emotions wildly inconsistent with external reality. These are also experiences that also accompany transcendence and/or “aesthetic arrest.” It is clear to me that in the psychotic or schizophrenic experience there is still an ego hanging on, trying to retain some degree of influence, trying to understand a reason for the experience. THAT is what leads to madness rather than transcendence. I should also add that this is merely my thought, my speculations, about mystical and schizophrenic experiences. I have a few close friends who are psychiatrists, and I would be surprised if they agreed with me.

      So before I get too far into the weeds, let me address the issue of mythic thinking v. magical thinking. I like your phrase “wishcraft” in relation to magical thinking. I think magical thinking constitutes a withdrawal from the world and from life. It’s a kind of defense mechanism that creates illusions of causality, control, and influence that protects one’s ego from the reality of human experience, which is the experience of life being generally unfathomable, unmanageable, and often inhospitable. Magical thinking sees nothing objectively, it doesn’t even try to. It’s designed to please rather than penetrate. Magical thinking is often sentimental, often self-contradictory, and only interested in one’s own success, contentment, and self-assuredness.

      The aim of mythic thinking, on the other hand, is to see through the mask, to penetrate the veil of Maya–illusion, and discover deeper truths, deeper realities, deeper relationships among all things. Mythic thinking is inherently skeptical; it evolved from the most ancient of our ancestors looking upon the material world and thinking that there is something unseen and unexplainable going on here, and perhaps this story, this image, this play, will help make sense of it. Mythic thinking is, as I explained in my September MythBlast, ironic. Mythic thought encourages a kind of double vision, an awareness of the known knowns and the known unknowns, and when it is really successful, we get something of an inkling about the unknown unknowns as well. Mythic thinking draws us more deeply into the world, more deeply into ourselves, with curiosity, awe, and delight. And it does this always with a sense of discovery and bewilderment, turning the material world inside out. It gives one the gift of the possible, whereas magical thinking offers clear cause and effect and incongruously, a kind of epistemological certainty. So the madness we see on the fringes of our cultural and political life is based on a literalization of myth that inflates individual egos, and is the exact opposite of mythical thinking. From that perspective there is no will to attempt to see through any sacred cows, no logic, facts, social contracts, or common human decency will persuade otherwise.

      I didn’t intend to write another essay, so I’ll stop at this point and entertain questions or comments, but it is such fertile ground…


      Bradley, your essay is beautiful!

      “Myth: The Grammar of Creativity,” I love that! This essay is still sinking into the bones!

      Poetry called me to adventure as a young child…and those words that had a magic to convey both joy and sorrows in these other lands of mind were an absolute delight to me!  Then when I found words to create my own poems…I could lose myself in the moment of it!

      Thanks to a re-airingof The Power of Myth on PBS in the late 90s, at 17, I was finally old enough to appreciate Joseph Campbell and found myself completely compelled! Searching for as many Joe Campbell books as I could find!
      Mythopoetic? Yes! Love that term!
      And I love your reference to delight where there is no pain, no thought…just experience.

      And the experience of delight can lead to transcendence. It reminds me of a line in a George Harrison song “about do without doing…”  (knowing the ways of heaven without going out the door—-that kind of metaphor… “The inner light.”)

      Or perhaps it’s when one stops looking for what is lost then they will see it? Well sometimes…laugh.

      That place of “delight,” seems to be a very healing place.
      I wish could remember the poet Campbell referenced who was talking about the whole world joining a dance…think it was in the collection Reflections for Living…thought it was Ginsberg but think it was another poet.
      But my take was that where joy or delight was found…that it would spread. Not of conscious intent but because of spontaneity.
      I’ve found while being in joy…doing things in the moment not for a cause only for the joy of it, with no expectations, that marvelous and unexpected adventures have happened.
      Dance has especially been that way for me…I trained and have performed professionally and coached and choreographed for others…but love free form too. And I love being lost in the delight and joy of moving in rhythm and form to the music. Or seeing the joy you feel reflected in others eyes. Or delighting in watching others do what they love! Or just experiencing joy in any moment!
      I love seeing something beautiful  in nature that stills me and feeling it’s beauty radiating into the heart.
      Every moment can hold unexpected delight! Including helping or giving to those whom you care about!

      Delight and poetry! What a hopeful place to be Bradley! We need more of that desperately! Thank you!


      Ok here is part two.

      My Mom, the astronomer once told me about nature: “reflect the beauty you feel.” For her the heavens she observed were inextricably linked with poetry…her favorite Rilke’s “You darkness that I come from…” and she loved the natural world and all its colors as she was an earth scientist and artist too.
      Walking in forests I understand her love of green…I’ve been happily arrested by the green of trees beyond my imagining suspended in the experience which becomes a physical sense as I remain transfixed in this greening and I happily both reflect and in reflecting disappear…not losing myself but finding Self. Fall too my favorite time of year…colored leaves, flying hawks, cold apple cider and crisp wind with adventures just waiting to happen!

      It’s the same when deer appear reminding me I share the world with something More than myself. And to not wallow in melancholy when there is so much more to behold!
      IF I remember to pause. And allow the winds to blow away the webs of thought and mind chatter. (My Dad-the math teacher—loved nature and poetry  too…and hearing him recite Tolkien’s Misty Mountains poem may also have informed various life adventures and loves and delights!)

      Perhaps this muse on deep delight is also another way of looking at Dylan Thomas’s “Fern Hill,” the last line “Though time held me green and dying…I sang in my chains like the sea.”
      Or Gerard Manly Hopkins, “Inversnaid where he celebrates and delights in the weeds and wilderness…or the Whitman Yawp! That delight exists in spite of all the other shadows of the world and along side. Not all is lost in darkness, where there is darkness sometimes there are stars…or meteors and braving a cold November night is always worth the chill and solitude the radiance of each meteor piercing my soul for the memories once shared. I would have it no other way!

      Alas! Now I’ve leaned more toward the poetic than the mytho but suppose it brings it to the human experience?

      Now I need to dig back into your lovely essay and my other Campbell books! Thank you!


      Bradley Olson

        Sunbug, thank you for your enthusiastic and lovely response. I agree with you about the importance, the beauty, and the delight of poetry. It seems to me that life is not a viable proposition without poetry; it is intrinsically delightful, and reaches into the heart of human existence and its beauty, its pain, and its challenge. Wallace Stevens once wrote that a poem should resist the intellect, almost successfully, and I think that’s true for myth as well. In addition myth has a lyric, poetic quality baked into it from its early oral transmission. I can’t think of Homer’s “rosy-fingered dawn” or Sophocles’ “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been” as anything other than poetry.

        Thank you for your delightful response!


        Allow me to hitchhike on Sunbug’s kudos and add my own appreciation for this “delightful” statement, Brad:

        Mythopoesis is a uniquely human endeavor and delighting in it allows one to, if not exactly remake the world, at least remake our own reality here and now. For there is no fear in delight, no pain, no thought; delight is pure experience, and is in itself, transcendent.”

        This observation mirrors the delight Campbell displays in his approach to the subject – a perspective first enunciated in “The Dilettante Among Symbols” (etymologically, a dilettante is “one who takes delight”), the opening chapter of Heinrich Zimmer’s The King and the Corpse – one of four posthumous Zimmer works, edited by Joseph Campbell and compiled from boxes full of typewritten lecture notes, partial outlines, “scraps of paper, scribbled in German, English, Sanskrit, and French,” and even notes found in the margins of books – a task that ate twelve years of Campbell’s life.

        I think of Zimmer’s four posthumous volumes as “proto-Campbell”; Joe’s playful voice certainly comes through (which is evident when one compares these books, published in English, with the English translation of Kunstform und Yoga im indischen Kultbild (“Artistic Form and Yoga in the Sacred Images of India”), the 1926 work that brought Zimmer to Jung’s attention.

        Here is an excerpt of Zimmer arriving at the same conclusion re delight in myth:

        Delight . . . sets free in us the creative intuition, permits it to be stirred to life by contact with the fascinating script of the old symbolic tales and figures. Undaunted then by the criticism of the methodologists (whose censure is largely inspired by what amounts to a chronic agoraphobia: morbid dread before the virtual infinity that is continually opening out from the cryptic traits of the expressive picture writing which it is their profession to regard) we may permit ourselves to give vent to whatever series of creative reactions happens to be suggested to our imaginative understanding. We can never exhaust the depths – of that we may be certain; but then, neither can anyone else. And a cupped handful of the fresh waters of life is sweeter than a whole reservoir of dogma, piped and guaranteed.” (The King and the Corpse 5)

        No wonder Campbell declares that Zimmer “gave me the courage to interpret myths out of what I knew of their common symbols.” Zimmer encouraged Campbell to follow his instincts, give free rein to his imagination and actually engage the mythic archetypes, rather than analyze, categorize, and systematize them to death. This experiential mythology, with its emphasis on the numinous image and the power of myth, is guaranteed to make many an academic specialist uncomfortable.

        And, on a related note, nearly four decades later, in conversation with Bill Moyers, Campbell underscores that same resonance between myth and poetry that you highlight:

        I think of mythology as the homeland of the muses, the inspirers of art, the inspirers of poetry. To see life as a poem and yourself participating in the poem is what the myth does for you. (Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth 55)

        Apparently great minds really do think alike, Brad . . .

        Bradley Olson

          Stephen thank you for reminding me of the etymology of the word dilettante. It’s too bad it’s now synonymous with a lack of knowledge, or being uncommitted, disengaged, or unskilled. I am most delighted in the world and in myself when I find my self in the perspective of a dilettante.

          You make an important point that brings me back to the subject of mythic thinking:  you wrote of the importance of engaging “the mythic archetypes, rather than analyze, categorize, and systematize them to death.” This is the essence of mythic thinking: engaging the archetypal rather than the archetypes. The archetypal gives rise to archetypes, it is their ground of being, so to speak. Mythic thinking resolves to see through even the archetypes in order to explore the archetypal. One must be a dilettante to do that–a happy warrior. Campbell also makes the point in various places that that analyzing, categorizing, systematizing impulse prevents one from giving oneself over to the bliss of pure experience, which is the essence of transcendence. This is not to say that analysis, nomenclature, and understanding systems is of no value; quite the contrary, in fact. But as I say in the essay, there are some things about life and living that are stubbornly resistant to reason and intellect, and we should delight in our dilettantism, for those stubbornly resistant truths won’t yield themselves to anger or frustration, and if they yield at all, it would be to good humor, patience, and delight.


            Professor Olson; What a tremendous essay you have laid out and so much to draw from which I not only have gotten so much insight; but I wonder if you would elaborate further concerning the relationship between: “archetypes and complexes”; (especially the latter). For instance the concept: “core complex” is something that is often referred to in Jungian terminology that has to do with the later-life emergence of buried aspects of the life experience that must be integrated and assimilated as the individual makes the transition from life achievement to life meaning where a new change in emphasis is demanded for growth of the individual to reach his or her intended full potential.

            Often a crisis or trauma calls this aspect forth as messenger of the psyche that the individual is compelled and must make the required alchemical adjustments that the large (S)elf as the central or guiding archetype of the entire psyche; (not to be confused with the little (s)elf as ego); must answer. This code or script that is orchestrating this huge life change; (individuation); begins to transform the entire push forward toward resolution within the life process toward it’s final destination of; (as Joseph would say the dark gate) or death.

            I will leave a couple things below to attempt a better description of what I’m asking your thoughts on because usually when this subject comes up Myths are what are used as metaphoric descriptors and the word (“complex” is often excluded). It is often said as Shaheda brought up in a separate discussion: “that we don’t have complexes; complexes have us”. And indeed I think it is often understood that in Jungian therapy or analysis that to get to the root of a crisis or emotional trauma the complex that is driving it must be identified and integrated so that the transcendent function can create a new symbol for the gradient flow of psychic energy; (libido); to instigate the necessary change the psyche is asking for to move forward from it’s blockage; (yes?). (I realize this is a rather convoluted explanation but please bear with me.)

            So here is my first clarifier from a previous discussion:


            In Stephen Larson’s: “The Mythic Image” on page 14:

            “But Jung showed that while our (normal) sense of personal identity is forever threatening to dissolve at its deepest boundary into the mythic archetypes of the collective unconscious, once a person has accepted this (essential unreality of one’s own nature), he or she is for the first time in a position to construct an authentic selfhood (individuation, the creative, integrated psyche).

            Individuation is to normal as normal is to neurotic, and neurotic is to psychotic. And this hierarchical model of integration-disintegration suggests that it is not the presence or absence of mythic themes in personal psychology that determines sanity, but how the ego relates to these. The cards we have been dealt by fate are a hand from a recognizable deck, which like the Tarot, is made up of a finite number of archetypal forms (fools, magicians, priestesses, hanged men, and so forth). Whether one is simply possessed by these recurring archetypes or may learn to relate to them in a creative dialogue would seem to make all the difference. Jung said, “Man must not dissolve into a whirl of warring possibilities and tendencies imposed upon him by the unconscious, but must become the unity that embraces them all.” (C.G. Jung The Practice of Psychotherapy 197.)

            And here is the second topic clarifier concerning the relationship of: “Complexes” to your deep and insightful essay in the form of a short clip from Jungian analyst; James Hollis. (So in other words if I’m understanding these concepts correctly in their proper application the mission of the individuation process is to identify and integrate what the “emotion-toned messages of the “Core Complex” are saying; so that like the “chrysalis” process of the larva or worm to transform into the Moth or Butterfly this alchemical process must take place; yes?). Again; sorry this explanation was not clearer. (Thank you in advance for your kind thoughts.)


            I’m going to include an additional clip that has Murray Stein giving a much more in depth description on what a “Core Complex” is so as not to confuse the issue I’m attempting to address. In other words from my limited understanding this type of complex is a central focus dynamic that responds to much of the emotional tone-based stimuli that helps to shape the self-image. Analyst Mario Jacoby addressed this theme in an earlier book: “Shame and the Origins of Self-Esteem – A Jungian Approach”; which was part of a series of 5 books he wrote before he died in 2011. Stein addresses some of the ideas in those books in this link. The other books he wrote on this are: “The Analytic Encounter – Transference and Human Relationship”; “Longing for Paradise – Psychological Perspectives on an Archetype”; “Individuation and Narcissism – the psychology of self in Jung & Kohut”; and “Jungian Psychotherapy & Contemporary Infant Research”.

            I do not in any way want to present an impression that I have anything more than a very limited knowledge on this topic concerning a “Core Complex”; but after spending many days immersed in these works these are my impressions so far; which is one of the reasons I’m asking these questions as they relate to many of Joseph’s themes. To me they seem to match up and down his ideas; so your thoughts on this would be extremely appreciated. (Stephen of course may have things to contribute that may disagree with my impressions since I am not a Campbell or Jungian scholar. But this is what the material seems to say to me on this subject.) Thanks for taking the time to read this.

            Bradley Olson

              James, you’ve offered a lot here to chew on, and you have already developed a pretty impressive command of the subject. I’m not sure how much I have to add, since many of the people you cited have also been my sources and teachers. If I understand your question, the difference between complexes and archetypes is indeed a subtle one. You, or someone you cited, suggested that at the bottom of a complex is an archetype, and I think that is inescapably true. I understand the difference to be that the archetype’s origins are found in the collective unconscious, that inheritance from the whole history of humankind, while complexes tend to be related to the personal unconscious, and hence their “feeling toned” quality. One is often able to identify what a complex consists of because it arises from a personal experience, even though that experience may be repressed and not initially consciously available. But we are fundamentally unable to know what an archetype is because, as Jung wrote, the nature of the Psyche is inaccessible to us. (Jung, The Symbolic Life (CW Vol. 18) The form of the archetype is filled in as individuals acquire experiences, which is of course why complexes, indeed perhaps all life experience, have archetypal foundations. From a practical perspective in psychotherapy, the analysand needn’t be schooled in this way for therapy to be beneficial, and in fact, this information can be utilized as a defense against the process of individuation. You may recall Jung’s remark about religion being a defense against a religious experience, and much the same thing can apply in this instance. But it certainly makes for a fascinating subject of investigation.

              You write, Often a crisis or trauma calls this aspect forth as messenger of the psyche that the individual is compelled and must make the required alchemical adjustments that the large (S)elf as the central or guiding archetype of the entire psyche; (not to be confused with the little (s)elf as ego); must answer. This code or script that is orchestrating this huge life change; (individuation); begins to transform the entire push forward toward resolution within the life process…and I think this is theoretically sound with the exception that the individual does not make the “required alchemical adjustments,” but rather it is psyche (perhaps more properly, the Self) that initiates this change which, at the beginning, is almost always unconscious. The adjustment the individual must make is to accept the fact of, the reality of, the psyche and then place oneself in relationship to that reality. One responds to it like any other fact of nature; eventually we learn if it’s cold outside we take action that will harmonize us with the weather, i.e. we put on a coat. Taking the psyche for real influences one’s behaviors, choices, insight, attentiveness and so on in a similar way.

              As for Professor Campbell’s understanding of Jung, it may not have been as encyclopedic or as nuanced as that of a trained analyst, but he was very well versed in Jungian theory. Campbell’s preface to the portable Jung is one such example, and it’s worth finding the book just for Campbell’s preface alone. In fact, you can find on the JCF website here:

              Stephen might be the one to add a bit more to the discussion of Campbell’s familiarity with Jung.

              So thank you, James, for a very interesting question.


                Professor Olson; thank you so so much for your incredibly kind and extremely thoughtful response. I was very concerned that my questions and context would be way too muddled and confusing to sort through but you did so in such a helpful way that I now feel I am on much better footing in the way understand this whole system I can now move forward with much better confidence. (Thank you for the “Portable Jung” suggestion; I have a copy that I need to dust off and revisit.)

                So many days and nights I have spent going through this material to gain a better foothold in the understanding of my process; and thanks to you I now feel I now have a much better grasp of the concepts and a way to move forward with them. I think for me and possibly others; it is sometimes so difficult to put these ideas into explainable words, feelings, and dialogue; and you have helped to confirm many of the things I suspected but was not sure I properly understood them correctly so that others might understand the thoughts I was clumsily attempting to communicate.

                More simply put this is not easy material to navigate and weed through so that one feels they are on solid ground; (and this can make “all” the difference in the way they see their life course moving in the proper direction because as you suggest the ego defense mechanisms can get in the way and as so often is realized: “we fool ourselves” which keeps us from seeing who we really are instead of who we “think we are”; and what we may need to do to make the necessary adjustments like in the examples you so thoughtfully offered.

                We are living in a time when incredible pressure is felt by so many of us to decipher the difference between reality and conjecture; (and we can get lost within our own: “house of mirrors” as it were); causing so much misery and pain that is reflected I think in the increasing numbers of suicides, drug abuse, and violence we see happening all around us. “We don’t know ourselves”; as the saying goes; and it is the themes that Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung have helped to provide that gives us a roadmap of our inner terrain that we would otherwise be so lost in.

                This symbolic “Telesphorus” of Jung’s I think in many ways provides us with a way to think about; as one way I read; “a small light in a dark room that brings hope and meaning into mere existence” for both ourselves as well as sharing our pain with others. The Journey of the Hero is so important in a time of so much confusion and chaos; and it is work that people like you are doing that will help others to find their way forward. Thank you again for your extremely kind and generous help.


                I was thinking about our conversation last night and how it was such an important realization for me in bridging a number of concepts together and I remembered a recent video clip in the JC Foundation’s YouTube channel which I’m going to add as a short addendum where Joseph and Bill Moyers talk about myth and how people can learn how to see the things that may help them in their Journey if they are open to integrating the transformative realizations that may be required along the way.

                It reminded me that finding and understanding what our “Core Complex” is – is directly related to one’s personal myth and that integrating it helps to open an important doorway that otherwise may be closed to us. So see if this doesn’t ring a bell with what we were just talking about; (I think it does because to me it represents the serpent shedding it’s skin metaphorically).

                The Adventure of Being Alive 


                To James:

                you write: “a small light in a dark room that brings hope and meaning into mere existence” for both ourselves as well as sharing our pain with others. The Journey of the Hero is so important in a time of so much confusion and chaos; and it is work that people like you are doing that will help others to find their way forward. Thank you again for your extremely kind and generous help.



                Think you just “lit” another candle, another prayer.


                And the Joseph Campbell clip you chose is perfect!



                I think it takes patience to allow the Grammar of Creativity  to impress itself upon and into ones psyche…to be able to bypass the Fear of being Objective.
                Or fear of experiencing Objectivity.
                The subjective: categorizes…the objective sees many views at once. It’s not an easy balance…but it is freeing and kinder.
                Jung’s comment (referenced both by James and Bradley) about “religion being a defense against religious experience,” brings another thought to mind.
                In life, there are always these systems or a “system,” which we need as much as saying “yea!” to life, because it’s just another part of the story.
                Yet sometimes I wonder if “the system,” or “systemic,” which have their part to play, Also are a defense against the mythic life or transcendent experience?
                The transcendent rests in that place of mystery, as Campbell so eloquently said in the clip James provided.
                The systemic exists to answer most questions and to keep the cogs turning. People can still make, experience journeys in the systemic forest, but it seems at times,  the systemic also exists to scorn Mystery and the transcendent. Though Stephen and Bradley may have a different take since I have not dived as deeply into Jung as the others here on the board!
                My thought was that if the systemic (even though we also need it) spurns the transcendent and mythic experience, that THAT would cause a schism in the human psyche that would “manifest,” in all kind of strange happenings. Those manifestations could be a result of trying to balance a loyalty to the system and a deeper yearning inside, which desperately calls for an individuation experience, not always recognized by the system.
                It might be a Calling and A place where objectivity, Irony bring a better, calmer perspective and allow the Grammar of Creativity to knock at the door…by opening the heart to listen and letting the head quiet down. So needed!
                But there may be a better take on this from those more knowledgeable in the field!
                I think that quote of Campbell’s about not being swallowed by the system probably would fit into this. Or learning to move through it without becoming rigid oneself.
                Well back to those creative lit thoughts that lean into a little more light and hope! (Thanks to All!)


                  Sunbug; first of all your extremely kind and generous compliment about “a candle in a dark room” I actually borrowed; (we steal from the best; no?); from a very powerful movie called: “The Freedom Writer’s Diaries” based on a true life story of Erwin Gruwell; a high school English teacher who helped young teenage students learn to find their own story; and by writing about their lives in this way they learn to become in a sense their own analysts and find their common humanity when the dark world around them in which they were enveloped offered no hope of personal fulfillment or identity.

                  She started this process by assigning “The Diary of Anne Frank” as a metaphor against hopelessness; and the transformation that followed took them to realms beyond which they never could possibly have imagined from the lives they were presently living. At one point they went to the Holocaust Museum and then invited Miep Gies; the woman who hid Ann Frank from the Nazi’s to come and speak to them. The included scene clip above is a recreation taken from the movie where she repeats these lines and reveals to us all how we are “candles in the dark” and by helping others we also can learn to help ourselves as well.

                  Second; I think your post is spot on! It articulates so clearly; at least to me; so much of what this conversation concerning the “Language or Grammar of Creativity” is addressing; but Bradley and Stephen may have more to add so I will leave off and let them speak about this themselves. (Truly a beautiful response.) Again; thank you for your kindness.

                  Bradley Olson

                    Thank you both, Sunbug and James, for such an enthusiastic engagement with this topic. It’s very gratifying.

                    As regards your question about systems, Sunbug, of course these “control systems” often act as a defense not only against the mythic life or the experience of transcendence, but they are defenses against any inner life at all. There is a kind of pacification encouraged by them, an inclination to see and live life only on a surface level. The goal is not necessarily a humanistic one, but rather an economic one, which tries to convince people that happiness is found through consumption, that being hypnotized by one’s 100 inch TV is the summon bonum of contemporary life. That said, systems are not always bad in the sense that one doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel and that sort of thing. Flights that leave on time, education, well stocked grocery stores, good health care, etc. are all good and fine things. But one mustn’t be lulled into thinking that that is the only way to live or organize one’s life. Mythic thinking let’s us occupy a “both and” way of seeing life; of seeing that in one area or another one may step outside the system or, conversely, go with the flow depending on one’s particular needs or aims at a given time. Mythic thinking frees one from convention and reclaims one’s agency (to the degree that we have agency) in the living of one’s own life. Of course when we ignore the inner world, we create an untenable psychic imbalance that, if we remain unaware, results in some degree of catastrophe. By being conscious of the systems and how we do or do not choose to participate in them allows a more harmonious relationship to life, and we can become more reconciled to the conditions of living–a tremendous achievement in itself–and from that place we then open ourselves to the possibility of the transcendent.

                    Thanks again for your contributions to this topic!



                    Thank you James for your kind words to me as well! And the link! A lot of treasures shared on these boards!

                    And thank you Bradley for your response to my question. Your reply reveals the core…a poignant observation. But the health and well being is hidden within the gift of observation. A bird can choose to alight upon any part of the “human” grid…or fly through…it’s being aware of the choices one makes at any point in  her/his life.

                    It is “Being conscious” as you said.

                    When you mention a pacification encouraged by (these systems) to see and live life on a surface level…

                    That rings true at least for me. Sometimes the answer or maybe resolution or question “lives deeper?” and if these type of systems only encourage a surface level or even claim the “surface” (system) for the deep…

                    Then how can that inner healing occur?
                    The language of myth challenges all of us to see, hear, think and feel deeper…and allow for mystery and poetry…irony…objectivity. (The latter two are hard when there is pain and fear)

                    The irony to me is that the mythic way and grammar of Creativity leads the way back into a humanistic and compassionate approach to life and each other. And recognizing as Parceval did that compassion is Deeper than the systemic definition of it…deeper than etiquette alone. That it can be spontaneous, a creativity born out of the heart? Like the Policeman who saved the man on the bridge? It’s mind blowing how One on One moments can open to the Transcendent allowing a glimpse of the human connection we all share…if we allow ourselves that creative objective view!

                    We all do the best we can within those systems we traverse every day.
                    I just hope the language of myth remains to keep the balance and to remind us sometimes it takes something deeper and more subtle than “a think tank,” to behold the travails, grails and stories of all our lives and crossing paths on spaceship earth.

                    Thank you for your tremendous essay and your lovely responses to me!
                    It is a very hopeful place to be!

                    And thank you Stephen for providing these spaces of CoHo and being welcoming to so many. It’s really a pleasure and a treasure to be able to read these excellent essays and to be able to participate in conversations with these knowledgeable, authors, philosophers, professors  and other participants  on the board.
                    This is close as I’ll ever come to auditing a philosophy class! It’s a joy!
                    Thank you everyone!!

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