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Seeking Answers

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  • #72066

    Dear Mythologists,

    I have a few simple questions:

    Q 1. Heinrick Zimmer via Joseph Campbell: “The best things can’t be told because they transcend thought. The second best are misunderstood, because those are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can’t be thought about. The third best are what we talk about.”  My question relates to the second best are misunderstood part. Has anyone here in this forum realized what is it they misunderstood long time ago, and had they NOT misunderstood, they would have been on a very different path?

    Is Joe referring to the gap between the thoughts of two individuals?  That one person’s thoughts are not in sync with the other, hence the misunderstanding.   Does one ever realize what was misunderstood? I ask this question, because it’s after 50 years, and just recently through a conversation, I realized I misunderstood, misjudged, misinterpreted, a pivotal event in my life. Had I not misunderstood, I would have not lived the life I am now living.

    Thanks for answering this question.

    Q2:  “My feeling is that mythic forms reveal themselves gradually in the course of your life if you know what they are and how to pay attention to their emergence. My own initiation into the mythic depths of the unconscious has been through the mind, through the books that surround me in this library. (“Man and Myth: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell,” Psychology Today, July 1971 ) Is Joe referring to one’s personal mythic forms? My problem is exactly what Joe stated, that is, ” if you know what they are and how to pay attention to their emergence”  My sense is that many here, do know their personal mythic forms and do  have that knowledge of how to pay attention to them.

    JC: ” if you live with the myths in your mind, you will find yourself always in mythological situations. They cover everything that can happen to you. And that enables you to interpret the myth in relation to life, as well as life in relation to myth.”  Hmmm, I live with one myth in my mind, that is,  Jesus’ death and resurrection. …this mythic form more than any other myth.

    Shaahayda

    #72089
    Mars
    Participant

    The second best are misunderstood, because those are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can’t be thought about.

    Think of thoughts as obvious perceptions. One’s very own perception is pressed / framed/ stamped upon what is considered as the ‘proper’ perception and unique and universal at the same time. It is impossible to discuss this, to share or transfer, as the other has the same unique and universal perception too. The ‘images’ however will and can not coincide.

    Your perception of the reality is not the reality, it is only your perception – hence it is not the reality.

    Sideways are the common images (they transcend) and what we can discuss, like this here.

    “a pivotal event…” You could not control it, only lived it. This experience is very common though.

    #72088

    You write, “You could not control it, only lived it. “Thank you Mars for your elaboration here. I am trying to link this experience to a personal myth, therefore, one more question:    Does  living the misunderstood event make it second best?  In hindsight, it’s been anything BUT! Your thoughts?

    Also, any thoughts on the following:

    Q2:  “My feeling is that mythic forms reveal themselves gradually in the course of your life if you know what they are and how to pay attention to their emergence. My own initiation into the mythic depths of the unconscious has been through the mind, through the books that surround me in this library. (“Man and Myth: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell,” Psychology Today, July 1971 ) Is Joe referring to one’s personal mythic forms? My problem is exactly what Joe stated, that is, ” if you know what they are and how to pay attention to their emergence”  My sense is that many here, do know their personal mythic forms and do  have that knowledge of how to pay attention to them.

    Shaahayda (thanks you)

     

    #72087

    From a mythic view I might normally guess that “the second best are misunderstood,” might be an example of attempting to “concretize” by perception what cannot be “concretized,” and like Frost it’s the concrete that builds a wall…between neighbors unless the wall becomes a transformed metaphor which could bring neighbors together while they build it. The misunderstanding then is more of a “potential,” energy.

    HOWEVER on the human level, if a “pivotal event,” informs one’s  life in a positive way, bringing joy, peace, happiness and inspiration, adventure (without hurting anyone else) then perhaps a misunderstanding occurs as a result of “different definitions” or “different perception of experience.”

    I’m familiar with misunderstandings and the tangles which can arise from those. (Sigh) But If someone is coming from the heart or feels something from there—again beyond the words and the surface—

    It’s hard to imagine the Joy energy revealed by the catalyst (regardless of the proper definition for the catalyst)

    being a second best or something to be discounted. Especially if the joy as often happens is something that spreads and is shared on the path spontaneously with others in a life adventure.

    it depends on the circumstance of an individual and that “business” is the individuals own.

    the question of a misunderstanding depends on the environment I think.
    even IF something was misunderstood is the Misunderstanding a Necessary revelation? Should Joy be less because of this? Just cannot see that!
    Perhaps a Catalyst regardless of its proper “definition,” is still a call to adventure.  And it would seem to me to borrow and adapt Gandalf’s quote , “It’s what you do with the time that is given.” (Yes I still work on this one too)

    Or the adventure that is given. It’s still your adventure.

     

    #72086

    I also wanted to thank you for recommending David Abram’s book, which I’ve just started reading. Lovely!

    And apologize for any lengthiness as small print can be hard to peruse for eyes.

    As far as myths in ones own life, Joe Campbell’s reference to experience really hits home.

    I feel it especially in Nature, though I’ve had some beautiful human events in my life as well (and sometimes nature has been woven through those)

    With Campbell when he mentions the books…it seems he used to reference the Goddess Libera (Roman Goddess? Of reading/knowledge-have to re-check) as a metaphorical inspiration.

    Sometimes I think those mythic or transcendent moments just happen.
    One can go looking of course but then it’s possible on the way to one journey another one might happen (thinking positive here not scary-)

    This is the reason so many people strongly relate to coincidence and synchronicity.

    For me nature surprised by way of big black Raven on a trip out west. Though by no means of big mythic proportions.
    The big black-winged bird settled into the way I perceived the landscape around me and did awake a little something inside, which opened the way to new adventures. And connection.
    And then the doe and fawn who continually visit my yard have pulled me out of the worries of my head back into a balance of heart-mind, where I can just breathe.
    From your other posts I know you have felt and had beautiful wildlife experiences too…I know your original question references something not just encompassing wildlife…

    (though I wanted to ask if you had ever encountered a moose?)

    A dear friend who was the first woman Methodist minister in NC (passed many years ago now) had a saying in one of her books which I really love: my paraphrase: That “ritual was fine, but do not be so concerned with ritual that you cage yourself from “God’s surprise.”
    And just from my own experiences it’s in that area of “God’s surprise” (or whatever you wish to call it) where the unexpected and wonderous occurs.

    At that threshold the symbols, the connection…the moment of experience opens…maybe to glimmers of the transcendent.
    And only you can know what it means in relation to your own journey. And how it connects to Something larger than yourself.
    The image comes in focus just like a nebula revealing itself in a telescope lens…

    That light has always been there shining down appearing slightly blurry to the naked eye.
    Then something as simple and refined as refractor telescope reveals whole new worlds hidden in a clear night sky.

     

    #72085

    Dear Sunbug ( I owe you a post  and am still adding and snipping away)  and Mars,

    Thank you for your responses. They have been very helpful. Mars, I can very much relate to what you wrote, ”

    Your perception of the reality is not the reality, it is only your perception – hence it is not the reality.

    …….“a pivotal event…” You could not control it, only lived it. This experience is very common though.”  

    Another question, though: Are the second best a reference to that which can not be seen then, that is, when the misunderstanding occurred,  but you say, it’s a pretty common experience, then most humans misunderstand an event, which then becomes a second best thing?

    Sunbug, I also  love what you wrote:

    the question of a misunderstanding depends on the environment I think.
    even IF something was misunderstood is the Misunderstanding a Necessary revelation? Should Joy be less because of this? Just cannot see that!
    Perhaps a Catalyst regardless of its proper “definition,” is still a call to adventure.  And it would seem to me to borrow and adapt Gandalf’s quote , “It’s what you do with the time that is given.” (Yes I still work on this one too)

    Or the adventure that is given. It’s still your adventure

    Simply put, it’s still my adventure, or it’s still my Myth.  It really is, Sunbug, it’s my myth, undoubtedly.

    Now onto your next very interesting post.

    Shaahayda

     

    #72084

    Dear Sunbug,

    So much that you have written is close to my heart and close to my understanding. But before, I delve into myths, symbols, metaphors, experiences, unfolding of adventures, only one’s own experience and its meaning in relation to one’s very own journey, and finally the realization that it connects to something larger than oneself.  As part of Joe’s quote reveals, ‘where you thought you were alone, you’ll be with the rest of the world’.

    But before I delve into myths, I must say that it was Stephen who recommended David Abram’s book on the forum somewhere, and I then passed it on to you. I love it too, and go to it, from time to time. He recommended another one, it’s called “When Brains Dream”, I got it, and lo and behold, I am glued to it now. Therefore, the other one is on hold, however, I loved reading your review of it.

    I am putting my thoughts in a semi-coherent order  on what you wrote,  ” As far as myths in ones own life, Joe Campbell’s reference to experience really hits home. I feel it especially in Nature, though I’ve had some beautiful human events in my life as well (and sometimes nature has been woven through those) With Campbell when he mentions the books…it seems he used to reference the Goddess Libera (Roman Goddess? Of reading/knowledge-have to re-check) as a metaphorical inspiration.” 

    Will be back soon, dear Sunbug.

    Shaahayda

    #72083

    Dear Sunbug,

    I’ll pick up random points from your post, and respond at my speed, if you don’t mind. You wrote, “A dear friend who was the first woman Methodist minister in NC (passed many years ago now) had a saying in one of her books which I really love: my paraphrase: That “ritual was fine, but do not be so concerned with ritual that you cage yourself from “God’s surprise.”
    And just from my own experiences it’s in that area of “God’s surprise” (or whatever you wish to call it) where the unexpected and wonderous occurs.”  

    Yes indeed, that’s how I met God — a surprise, I think. As Joe writes, “where you thought was abomination, you’ll find a god”.. So our image of God is what’s twisted, we think God comes all wrapped in light and wonder, justice and fairness, truth and equality, but NO!  He’s hiding in your image of abomination.  I am reminded of Jung’s view on God, “.. “I too was afraid, since we had forgotten that God too is terrible. Christ says God is love, but you should know that love is also terrible.” Surprise Surprise.

    Similarly, John O’ Donohue writes, “you don’t find the divine by putting a camera on it” .

    Going back to Joe’s Hero’s Journey, “And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” This is a full and heavy package of surprises and eye-openers.

    Ok dear Sunbug, now I am off to your point number two, it’s on symbols and connection.

    Shaahayda

    #72082

    Sunbug,

    As far as myths in ones own life, Joe Campbell’s reference to experience really hits home. I feel it especially in Nature, though I’ve had some beautiful human events in my life as well (and sometimes nature has been woven through those) With Campbell when he mentions the books…it seems he used to reference the Goddess Libera (Roman Goddess? Of reading/knowledge-have to re-check) as a metaphorical inspiration.”

    Yes reference to experience and connecting them with what and how Joe describes a particular myth, is what works best for me. I have been able to connect to several small and big myths, depending where I am in my life, and how I am looking at various patterns in my life. While reading a Joe Campbell book, I was able to link myself to two Native American Myths. Now I don’t even recall in what book it was, but the way, he summarized that myth, it appeared to me, that was definitely me, the ending was  elusive, which it still is.

    And similarly with symbols. There are symbols of my own childhood tradition, that are rather deep in me, and I feel the mystery and wonder of those symbols, even though, I no longer participate in the rituals. Were I living in my childhood home, I’d be participating in those rituals annually, semi-annually, at a societal level but I don’t any more, yet they are deeply buried somewhere in the psyche.

    About three ago, I spent two years in Oslo, Norway, and was so taken by Norsks’ nature rituals, practiced at a societal level. One night, every month or every two months, when it’s the darkest, a date is set to walk into the forest from many paths. Here’s a scene form one such night. It’s pitch dark, a few lanterns keep people from falling into snow banks or puddles, walking though the dark forest, chilled to the bone, gusty winds, isolated raindrops, lured by the smell of hot chocolate, I make my way to a hilly part of the forest. I can’t see a thing, except a small bonfire, with a few folks handing out hot chocolate, and a few minutes later I see a thousand others just sitting quietly in the dark, and so I receive my hot cup and sit down on a nearby boulder. It must have been about 5 minutes or more, when my eyes began to see… what I saw was a HUGE pristine lake, reflecting the lanterns that lit the path that I and others had taken…this large silent lake just looked back at all of  us, as if to say,  “in the dark, eyes begin to see” The lake and the lanterns, the sky and the dark evergreen trees all went deep into my heart. I Have not forgotten that experience. My deep  Nature experience.

    Then there have been Nature symbols, right from childhood that began to surface as I read more and more of Campbell.  Again, it’s as you say, our experience is what opens up the symbol.

    Should I go on with childhood symbols, Sunbug?  It’s in Nature, and came to me after I began hiking our local mountain. It’s not a huge mountain, just 700 meters, but right in the middle of the city, so no driving, or parking, just hiking uphill.  There’s one that just came recently into my conscious awareness, and hence the geometric design on my profile pic.

    Shaahayda

    #72081

    Sunbug,

    You wrote, ” For me nature surprised by way of big black Raven on a trip out west. Though by no means of big mythic proportions. The big black-winged bird settled into the way I perceived the landscape around me and did awake a little something inside, which opened the way to new adventures. And connection.
    And then the doe and fawn who continually visit my yard have pulled me out of the worries of my head back into a balance of heart-mind, where I can just breathe.” How lovely, that it did awake something. I think the connection is made with the  need within us which is then met by a response from the wild. For me, one such connection was made a year or two ago, when out of the blue, these birds landed on a dry spot in the lake and danced and danced  to the music.  I am not sure if this video is visible to you, but it does tell a story.

    https://www.facebook.com/shaheda.rizvi/videos/1469411853196522

    You asked, “(though I wanted to ask if you had ever encountered a moose?) No, unfortunately not, but every year, crows do visit the tree that faces my apartment— about a thousand or more, and they wake up the sleepy population.

    https://www.facebook.com/shaheda.rizvi/videos/1586315378172835

    Now onto more childhood symbols. But please, if you so feel, I’d love to hear about your childhood symbols, and how you came to connect them with your personal myths.

    Shaahayda

    #72080

    Shaahayda,

    Joseph Campbell’s reference to this guidance from Heinrich Zimmer is repeated in work after work after work, almost as often as he mentions the four functions of mythology, and phrased slightly differently each time, sometimes with more precision, sometimes less. Comparing all of these, along with the various formations in lectures, Campbell’s meaning becomes clear.

    Here is my understanding:

    First Best Things:
    what are beyond words, beyond conception, beyond time and space – impossible to put into words.

    Second Best Things:
    these are “second best” because they are attempts to talk about what is beyond words with words (i.e. attempts to talk about words by means of the Third Best Things), which is why they are misunderstood.

    Third Best Things: everyday conversation.

     

    My old mentor, Heinrich Zimmer, had a little saying: the best things can’t be told—they are transcendent, inexpressible truths. The second-best are misunderstood: . . . metaphoric attempts to point the way toward the first. And the third-best have to do with history, science, biography, and so on. The only kind of talking that can be understood is this last kind. When you want to talk about the first kind, that which can’t be said, you use the third kind as communication to the first. But people read it as referring to the third directly; the image is no longer transparent to the transcendent.” (Pathways to Bliss)

    “My friend Heinrich Zimmer used to say the best things can’t be said. This is one of them. The second best are misunderstood. That’s because the second best are using the objects of time and space to refer to transcendence. And they are always misunderstood by being interpreted in terms of time and space. The third best: that’s conversation. We’re using the third best in order to talk about the first and second best.” (The Hero’s Journey)

    An example he sometimes uses is “God” – a mystery beyond human perception and conception. Most talk of God in religion uses words from every day conversation (God is “good” – or just, or vengeful, or merciful, or eternal . . . all of which are human qualities that are employed in a futile attempt to convey what transcends all conceptualization). Very much like trying to describe the color red to someone blind from birth (“red is hot” or “red means stop” or red is bright and cheery – all of which mean nothing to someone who never has and never will experience “red”), these efforts are misunderstood

    . . . except by those who have had an experience of the transcendent (as Jung said, when asked if he believed in God, “I don’t need to believe – I know”).

    Zimmer’s formulation is particularly relevant to discussions of mythology because of Campbell’s emphasis on myth as a prime example of second best things (i.e. metaphorical attempts to point the way toward the first best things).

    That doesn’t make your question any less valid or intriguing; I suspect most misunderstandings are a result of gaps between the thoughts of two or more people – differences in expectation, understanding, emphasis, and nuance. But unless the misunderstanding you had 50 years ago revolved around a discussion of transcendent mysteries, it’s likely not an example of those “second best things.”

    You write

    Does one ever realize what was misunderstood? I ask this question, because it’s after 50 years, and just recently through a conversation, I realized I misunderstood, misjudged, misinterpreted, a pivotal event in my life. Had I not misunderstood, I would have not lived the life I am now living.”

    It is rare to realize what has been misunderstood (especially when one’s whole life is built upon that misunderstanding). You don’t mention whether this misunderstanding was fortunate, or unfortunate – but sounds like the Trickster is in play here.

    Campbell’s advice? To say “yea” to it all: “If you say no to any detail of your life, you’ve said no to the whole web because everything is so interlocked.”

    I am curious what your reaction was when you realized there had been a misunderstanding. Shock? Regret? Or an “aha!” moment, where suddenly everything makes sense?

    #72079

    The Joseph Campbell line “and where you thought to find an abomination, you will find a god,” reminds me of a Renoir Marie Rilke poem.

    It begins “How should we forget the myths at the beginning of all peoples?

    Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses waiting to see us once beautiful and brave…”

    It is right up Campbell’s alley but for the life of me cannot remember which translation or translator.

    As for your symbol/moniker it recalls both the Third Eye (the opening of seeing) and the axis mundi…since you were inspired by the mountain you saw.
    Goes along with Campbell’s take on Black Elk too. Or Egyptian connection (Ra/Eye of Horus) that’s up to you what resonates or is yet to resonate. That symbol has a lot of different perceptions.

    Your experience of the lanterns in Norway is quite beautiful! How wonderful to see the lake revealed! Then there’s that water and subconscious metaphor too…but to me the poetry of it would be closer to the truth! And you described that beautifully!
    It’s like David Abram in the marsh with the fireflies and stars suspended in that state of sensing the sensible!
    Also Japanese lantern festivals setting the lights on the water

    And Celtic Bonfires: cue Loreena McKennit. (Music)

    I will stop this bit and come to childhood symbols in another.

    #72078

    Stephen,

    I am so grateful to you for taking the time to answer my silly question. Your answer, as usual, is generous, packed with references and crystal clear.

    You mention that “Joseph Campbell’s reference to this guidance from Heinrich Zimmer is repeated in work after work after work, almost as often as he mentions the four functions of mythology, and phrased slightly differently each time, sometimes with more precision, sometimes less. ”  Yes, I have come across this particular reference in all the places you mention, but remained unsure, and mostly took it to mean a difference in perception between two individuals or two different groups, thinking and talking of the third best things in life.  There was a lingering doubt and hence the question.

    Stephen, the misunderstanding was most unfortunate – yes the Trickster is in play here.

    Thank you again for the gentle reminder, “Campbell’s advice? To say “yea” to it all: “If you say no to any detail of your life, you’ve said no to the whole web because everything is so interlocked.”

    My reaction reaction was deep sorrow and intense regret.

    Addendum: Stephen, I have n0 more regrets, no more sorrow, no more blame. I needed to hear that podcast at this particular time in life (that is when living my full moon) to make sense of  why it is my own self I should be blaming.  

    Joe’s Quote (jcf. org) “Freud tells us to blame our parents for all the shortcomings of our life, Marx tells us to blame the upper class of our society. But the only one to blame is oneself.”
    — Joseph Campbell
    Featured in: Joseph Campbell Quotes

    Personal Mythology – Podcast: segment 42:00 >> Marx tells us to blame the society for our frailty, Freud tells us to blame the parents for our frailty.  The only place to look for blame is when you didn’t have the guts to bring up your full moon – and live the life that was your ( true) potential. 

    Shaahayda (in gratitude)

     

     

     

     

    #72077

    My apologies Shaahayda,

    Have been dealing with “stinging usurpers,” that have been buzzing inside my house…(hornets eee) another side of nature heh heh. Just a wee bit distracting…

    BUT to get back to your other question about childhood…it’s hard to say.
    I loved Mother’s paintings and loved colors (still do!—the green or autumn of a forest never ceases to amaze and inspire and mesmerize.)

    But for me, memories and people are what held my attention the most.

    As far as those traditional rituals, which surround someone as a child, I came to know them more through the people who spoke of them, such as the woman Methodist minister, Clarice Bowman, (who in fact was the one who introduced my Mom to the works of Joe Campbell!)

    Clarice was a loving, strong, passionate person with infinite grace and presence, but was not strict or judgmental.
    But she was passionate about fairness and justice in the world.
    Unforgettable.

    Yet I also sensed the stricter views, which surrounded her. She definitely challenged the grain!
    Not easy, but she remained determined!

    My tap mentor Beale Fletcher,  was a vaudevillian from back in the day. His wife Peggy was originally from Scotland. The two of them toured the country doing ballroom and a dance act together.
    They were a huge call to adventure for me in the land of dance!  Again two unforgettable people!

    And I think, it was only later when I discovered Campbell through the Power of Myth and reading the books, that THEN the symbols became keys to a new way of seeing! It definitely meant more to me!

    I’m lucky to have friends of all different backgrounds from Methodist/Presbyterian to Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist and even one Cherokee Elder storyteller…. And friends with scientific backgrounds (Bernd-my naturalist friend in Maine)
    So I love that!

    Yet also realize there is so much I don’t know…each road can split off into several diverging views about one belief/philosophy. It can become so complicated… impossible to remember all the litanies of one perspective, that sometimes I long for the sacred non-judgemental simplicity that Clarice Bowman shared with my family and me. (Rounding down to love and caring about people.)

    And I long for the Joe Campbell take.

    I loved what Stephen wrote to you above. Perfect! He nailed it in my opinion! The Trickster energy!

    If there was no harm/hurt caused to others and a joyous life has/is being lived (the yea! As Joe Campbell and Stephen are saying) then this “concretization” of what was or wasn’t true definitely seems the (trickster energy.)

    And what a creative way of saying that Stephen! Love it! Does not pin down or judge the occurrence…

    I sensed a potential “guilt/guilting issue”  but “Trickster” opens it up in a healthier way I think!

    Ok…so one more thing, but more to do with “literalism,” than trickster…

    I see a beautiful rainbow and see it at a time that symbolically means something to me.

    Now I am a scientist’s daughter and know how a rainbow literally is formed but it does not take away the feeling of seeing the rainbow in that sacred moment.

    Why should I tell anyone, who reads a personal, spiritual transcendence in a phenomenal event that they are wrong?      That the rainbow had nothing to do with them?  Or the butterfly had nothing to do with the soul of departed loved ones?

    Experiencing a special personal meaning is not the same as forcing a “special meaning” on others.

    (i.e. stricter religious/philosophical tenets ”Thou Shalt or else!” Or go to Hell!)

    That’s why I love the Spell of the Sensuous! (Yes thanks Stephen too for the recommendation that Shaahayda passed on to me!)

     

     

     

    #72076
    Mars
    Participant

    Does living the misunderstood event make it second best?

    Of course not! It is another even valuable one but yet not understood fully. It is not always possible to live one’s own ‘mythic life’. We have to do our daily work, shopping, cleaning, caring and what not. A revelation can occur even during strolling on the edge of a mountainlake. If noticed, it fries your nerves and freezes your thoughts. But equal valuable.

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