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The Boundary-Blurring Nature of Myth,” with Bradley Olson, Ph.D.”

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    Bradley Olson

      Hi, James

      The business of inner work is always unique to the individual. Therefore, I find the entire self-help section a waste of time. And to those people who pick up a book (based on Jung, or Campbell, or not) that purports to give them THE answer, they will often be more than disappointed and feel a deeper sense of failure, a deeper sense of marginalization, because they’ve been given the answers and still can’t manage to be happy.

      As far as reading and bibliotherapy is concerned, one can’t go wrong with poetry. Mary Oliver, Wallace Stevens, Anne Sexton, Stanley Kunitz, and of course, Rilke.

      There are no better psychologists than Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or Virginia Wolfe, and Thomas Mann. Reading them is to open to all sorts of insights about the world and human nature.

      Thanks for your participation as well!


      Thank you for your nice response Bradley!

      Amused by the irony and awed by the paradox!

      That feels like a very healthy perspective!

      Well, if Nature is boundless then of course we are all extensions of that right into the cities.

      The disconnect I think IS the insistence of the disconnect.

      That’s why sometimes the cities give the illusion of being separate.

      That is also why I love city parks…because they blur the boundaries all over again…like borders and gateways.

      Central Park is kind of obvious, but I loved it during my times spent in Manhattan…Walking into it from the busy streets felt like walking through a blurred invisible veil.
      A shift. But inhabitants of the city and the world walked there all the time. And/Both.
      Finding there are lovely parks in Brooklyn as well…changed my view.
      I could see the cities as something extending out of nature…they certainly take on a life force of their own, but the dissonance in the air is the need to define separation until I see the park wanderers. It brings something back.


      Have a question for everyone:

      Since the discussion is on blurred boundaries…

      I know there is Also this pendulum swing between reality/truth 

      and illusion/delusion.

      But there is another word I do not hear as often: disillusionment.

      To me this word seems more middle-ground…and almost blurry as it shares similar roots to the other words.
      Except, whereas illusion or even more so delusion swing directly opposite into an extremity, disillusionment does not do that necessarily. And a disillusioned person does not have to be extreme either…they could be Everyman/Everywoman or Artist or Universal Soldier but that state of mind
      (disillusionment) still makes a weighted silence at ALL the boundaries and borders.

      So for me it conjures this strange in-between place (ironically as so many of the stories do) And this middle place feels for sure like those old boundaries are blurring or the cracks are showing where they might blur.

      Maybe the reason I don’t hear it as much is because it was a word more associated with “being disillusioned with religion?” So only comes up in regards to that?

      Disillusionment, I think would certainly affect perception. And it’s simultaneously A Perception, one that would seem cynical enough to avoid delusion.

      However is Disillusionment in and of itself a certain thingOr does it also hold uncertainty within its perceptions?
      (based on personal experience perhaps?) More blurry boundaries?

      Is it primarily a reaction to certain, religions, creeds, spiritual roads or philosophies? (Or the other wild and wooly far end of the pendulum?)

      Or can disillusionment ALSO be a response or reaction to a Much More Secular World?  (and its ideals?)

      Just wondering if anyone else had any thoughts on this?


        Sunbug, I think you make a great point about human perception; and how these kinds of lines can get really blurred; one that certainly applies to religion as opposed to more secular oriented thinking; (the interpretations of reality between “science and religion” I think would be a really great example here). The individual in a religious oriented culture is I think more often than not going to be guided by a certain system of core beliefs; what Joseph often referred to as a: “Thou Shalt” set of values, whereas the individual in a more secular culture is more likely going to be guided by their own personal value system judgements.

        Joseph made a particular point of articulating this idea by emphasizing that we all have to live within some kind of system where one’s idea of “their own self-authority” comes up against this kind of close scrutiny. He mentions this is a major problem the individual has to work through as to how their life choices are going to be determined. There are a number of short clips where he addresses some of these issues, but I chose this one as it seemed the most directly related to the point I’m attempting to illustrate, although: Sunbug, Bradley, Juan, Stephen, or anyone else may have some other ideas they might want to throw in as to whether this jives with their point of view or not concerning this specific question regarding religion/secular: “reality/truth – illusion/disillusion”. There are certainly other dimensions of this issue one can address to be sure; but for now, this seemed the most relevant. (Although this area could certainly apply to other topical domains regarding mythic themes, ideas, philosophies and science; (especially in the West as opposed to Eastern Oriental religion and philosophy. And I don’t want to wander too far away from Bradley’s topic and Sunbug’s main query.)

        Bradley Olson

          Yes, Sunbug, I think you’re right; insisting on the disconnect creates the disconnect.

          As for parks, I think that the number and placement, or location, is one way that citizens can gage how the city cares for them.

          The Central Park is, I think, the best example, and it gets more beautiful every year. I love it. It’s not accidental that it’s surrounded by art museums, including the Natural History Museum. I don’t think I go too far when I say Manhattan is simply not a sustainable proposition without Central Park.

          Thanks for commenting, Sunbug!


          Yes! I remember that clip! Thank you James! It’s a good one! Makes me laugh. Love that Campbell “wryness.”
          It goes back to what Bradley said about being “amused by the irony,” and “awed by the paradox.”

          You mention Campbell’s point about all having to live within some kind of system…(and there come the challenges) Though maybe the trick is to be “in” the system (since its necessary) but not “of?” So one doesn’t get swallowed whole by it? (Which is kind of funny because that also conjures the image of some mythic creature like a dragon or something else. Irony!

          I really enjoyed Bradley and Stephen’s interchange and the mention of the ecologist Rickett. That kind of naturalistic approach certainly seems one way to keep wonder as a part of discovery. Sometimes I think if wonder remains attendant in discovery…then the human spirit will remain refreshed and renewed. It seems like there is always a balance between the rote (and sometimes dry) and the wonder. As long as there is horizon that seems hopeful…but I’ve strayed too far as well and need to leave room for any other remaining comments, whilst taking in mind on the edge of Friday the weekend will bring a whole other Topic soon on the way…

          Bradley Olson

            Hi, James

            I think disillusionment necessarily implies a letting go, giving up belief or the struggle to believe. Disillusionment, from my perspective, is more of a detachment, while a blurring or fuzzing keeps one engaged, keeps one wrestling with the idea or the image. Through a prolonged, or an intense, engagement, the epiphany is evoked. It’s a bit like Jung’s Transcendent Function: the tension between opposites must remain, or be held, for a considerable time (and when you’re the one holding the tension, even short periods of time seem unending.

            This was a great conversation and I’m grateful for the interest and participation!


              Bradley, thank you for this insightful refinement about disillusionment. No, I hadn’t thought about it within that particular context and was approaching it from a completely different perspective which you helped me better understand. Yes, this makes total sense; especially, as you pointed out that the “transcendent function” aspect evokes the alchemical process of transformation; and I would never have thought of the word: “Epiphany” as a descriptor.

              As you just mentioned, this conversation has truly been a wonderful experience, thank you so much for all you’ve brought to it.


              Thank you very much for this clip James! Yes! THIS succinctly rounds up the spirit of Joseph Campbell and what I remember the most when first seeing The Power of Myth and reading Joseph Campbell.
              And it’s certainly not easy, as times, perceptions and definitions change and keep changing. I think Campbell already knew that it was becoming and more and more challenging for any and every individual to navigate the world inner/outer journeys.
              Speaking of definitions, I know it’s weeks past but feel I owe Bradley an apology because he is absolutely right about disillusionment…it is detached. So that would be the opposite of
                 Think I was overreaching and stretching for a metaphor, which did not fit. Maybe was thinking more in terms of how some people could become disillusioned with a system…

              (yes certainly that happens with religion)

              but also thinking how people might become disillusioned with The system as well, but they would not necessarily become wild and wooly at the frayed-end of the woods. Attempting irony but I need more practice! *laugh*

              Just saying that even if a disillusioned person did not shock us, they still might surprise us, especially if we had not had the same experiences in life, which led to their detachment.
              I guess disillusionment might be the place where cracks show rather than blurred lines.
              Except I am NOW thinking that detachment has no deep investment and being detached almost conjures an image of Siddartha. I was originally thinking of that detachment as being a lack of investment in certain trust and belief of what others might take for granted even in secular systems.
              Maybe the disillusioned  were metaphorically  “burnt too many times,” or the modern equivalent of “broken treaties?” But not disillusioned enough to start believing in big foot (haha.) 
              But I may have been thinking more of cynicism than disillusionment? But Bradley did such an excellent job of clarifying the detachment element, I realized how muddled my thoughts were…so my apologies. It was the thought even a reg Joe disillusioned person might make us pause and wonder what brought about their disillusionment? Maybe some of the other conversations here brought this to mind?
              But I muddied the waters, because was not completely clear in my own mind about it…so apologies.
              The funny thing is as I write this it occurs to me that we all at times have become disillusioned with the system.

              But then we go on…as Campbell says saying “yes,” to all of it and participating in it. *grin*

              So it begins to feel like a moot point now…I think. Hee hee.

              I love Bradley’s take on “irony.” There is a beautiful, healthy and humorous detachment in that…yet irony can blur lines too…I think.

              Now Campbell might disagree but I secretly think that individual spirit is universal world over…not just born out of one region…maybe it’s not as obvious but swear I can see glimmers of it in other cultures…well balanced with community traditions and stories of course but I think it’s still there flickering within.

              But the irony to me is that now there are sooo many narcissistic types in the world the definition of that kind of journey has both negative as well as positive connotations in our modern culture (Even in spite of reluctant adventurers) and small collective adventurers.

              So you definitely have to feel for All today just trying to make their way in life!
              Though I must say there is something so beautiful and peaceful about being in nature when one is blessed or lucky to have or find that…and then there is the fine loud unspoken writing: thunder! Wind! Lightning! Storms! Bears and Bugs! And snakes! And downpours!
              Oh the irony! But if it isn’t a flood one can always imagine “dancing in the rain!”


              Bradley Olson

                No apologies necessary, Sunbug.

                Disillusionment seems to me to require disappointment, some degree of emotional pain, and in that is, i think, the main thing that differentiates it from detachment. It may lead to detachment, but I think, as you mentioned, it’s much more likely to lead to cynicism.

                Thank you for your energetic engagement on this topic!


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