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The Inner Reaches of Outer Space is Within Reach,” with Dennis Slattery, Ph.D”

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    Dennis Slattery

      Stephen; thank you so much for your posting above. I will get to it later today and know I will learn much from it.

      Much gratitude.


      Dear Dr. Slattery,

      Thank you for your generous response to so many of our questions in this forum, and especially when you have a hundred other commitments. I loved your response on synchronicity to Marianne, and your responses on ‘meaning/experiences’ ‘cooking and stewing’ and other matters to Drewie and Marianne.

      In my personal experience, when I cooked and simmered over a chance meeting, and never allowed it to slip away as a mere chance occurrence,  then in considering and caring for it, it became a synchronistic event and gave me wings where I had thorns. Just when I least expected, just when my unconscious nudged more and more, and the universe conspired to let me feel my brave feet and the wind played with my thoughts, it was then that  I was blown away with a chance occurrence that later morphed into a synchronistic event.

      You wrote, “Once I begin to hunt down meaning, I, not the experience, is cooked, actually over-cooked. I am continuing to learn to relax into what is in front of me after a lifetime of living in the past or anticipating the future.” Yes, I am beginning to accept what is in front of me rather than sulk over the past and I step on the breaks when I fancifully inflate the future.

      But I see living in the moment and taking a break from what is in front of me, goes in cycles. Stories from the deep caves of my heart break through when a  synchronistic event is expounded. And in those times, I wish to be in another geographic place rather than my current abode. I am reminded of Campbell, ” When we are one place in our lives and want to be in another place, there’s an obstacle to be overcome, a threshold to be passed.”   Campbell, Joseph. A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.

      You wrote, “Mythic consciousness is not causal but metaphoric, symbolic and storied. In the myth there is always meaning and that is part of the hero’s adventure to discover it. It takes a lifetime but I would not have it any other way. “ Thank you. Synchronicity  expounded for me is mythic consciousness indeed.

      Shaahayda (In gratitude to you and all at


      Hello all,

      Dennis, I read all your replies but for now I am just gonna post here.

      Your dense in meaning replies (no pun intended) help a lot and give me good insight into these very difficult concepts. I agree a lot with your approach on meaning but you and Marianne gave me so much to think that I will need to reread them tomorrow morning with my coffee and maybe take couple of days to delve deeper and come back later.

      For now thank you all very much.



      That is great, Stephen! See you and everyone there! I will be sure to visit “Understanding Campbell in the 1000 faces forum topic. I am looking forward to reading and learning more on Campbell on these notions (as well as others’ takes on Jung). Thanks for posting the link here!

      ~ In gratitude for all you do,



      Dear Dr. Slattery,

      Referring to the image of the earth as seen from the moon, you wrote,

      “Such a dramatic photo struck Campbell as a vision of a new myth. It also reveals his own mythopoetic way of discovering analogies that reveal relationships we might miss or ignore without his acute insights. He explores patterns closer to home–for example, between native American people and those of India–sensing “equivalences” in their images and beliefs. His method is “to identify these universals. . . archetypes of the unconscious and as far as possible, to interpret them” (69).

      I have read this passage several times but this time, after  reading your mythblast, it  began to make a dent in my understanding of images and landscapes that shape our inner world—“recognized and mythologized by any people as home.” I reached for my copy of “Inner Reaches of Outer Space” so as to understand and link my mythologized symbol to my inner landscape.

      Although I live close to a mountain called Mount Royal, and am fortunate enough to hike it often, yet my inner landscape is of the Himalayan mountain peak that was always visible to me as I stepped out my front door as a child. Why had I not thought about it much, just thought it was out there, not inside me, but lately hiking Mount Royal has brought it closer, perchance?   —  for me, it’s not OUT there anymore, it’s inside me too.

      Quoting Campbell,

      “God is an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” The idea, it seems to me, is in a most appropriate way illustrated in that stunning photograph (Figure 2) taken from the moon, and now frequently reproduced, of an earthrise, the earth rising as a radiant celestial orb, strewing light over a lunar landscape. Is the center the earth? Is the center the moon? The center is anywhere you like. “ Campbell, Joseph. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Myth As Metaphor and As Religion (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) (pp. 50-51).

      Childhood is experienced in a hundred ways, and as adults, we recall a few significant events. What comes to my mind is:  birth of a sibling, my first relay race, the gentleness of a teacher, my first pet, moving from one house to another, and a few others.

      Do our surroundings shape as we mythologize these symbols within us?  Was one landscape more intense than the other and in what way?  So, what do our childhood surroundings say about us? Is there a symbol that we carry unconsciously somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts?

      For me, in my sunset years, image of the K2-Mountain’s summit  pops up. From my childhood home’s  verandah, I could see K2’s-summit. I also recall it was mostly clothed in  snow— summer, spring winter and fall. “K2 is 8,611m (28,251ft) high – about 200m less than Everest – but is widely considered the most demanding of all in winter.”

      Here is an image of the K2-peak:

      Background of K2:

      Climbing this mountain is no ordinary feat.  George Bell, a US Mountaineer said, “ It is a savage mountain that tries to kill you…. So unforgiving are the conditions on K2, part of the Karakoram Range that straddles the Pakistan-China border, that it has long been referred to as The Savage Mountain.”

      Although I have never ever climbed it, never been nearer than 200km from its base, yet the image of that summit visits me often. I have visited it in my dreams, and thought I was in Afghanistan.

      Tracking back to K2’s harshness: Before arriving at the summit (which was my childhood image) mountain climbers must rest at a point called “Bottleneck”.  “The Bottleneck is well into the territory above 8,000m known in mountaineering as the “death zone”, when a lack of oxygen slowly shuts down the human body.” A climber writes, “No matter who you are. No matter your experience. No matter how fit you are. This is simply our biological limit,”  And another climber says,  “I don’t think you can prepare,……If you take one wrong step it’s a vertical drop of about 3,000m to the crevasse and glacier below.” This is a demanding god.

      The chosen center may be anywhere. The Holy Land is no special place. It is every place that has ever been recognized and mythologized by any people as home.” Campbell, Joseph. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Myth As Metaphor and As Religion (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) (p. 51).

      Do our surroundings shape us by mythologizing these symbols within us?  Was one landscape more intense than the other and in what way?  So, what do our childhood surroundings say about us? Is there a symbol that we carry unconsciously somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts?

      Thank you Dr. Slattery for your generosity in sharing your time with us on this forum.

      Shaahayda (in gratitude to you and all at

      Dennis Slattery

        Thank you Shaahayda for your rich and poetic response above.

        You are a very thoughtful and self-reflective person. You read and respond from the heart. That is the way to a mythic consciousness. Taking our lives seriously by not ourselves too seriously is a good balance. I hope you continue to respond to postings. You bring such richness to what I have written and to what others have expressed. You are such an asset to this Campbell forum. Many thanks.

        Dennis Slattery

          Wonderful, Andreas. Yes, let your thoughts and reflections simmer for a bit. I find that when writing, if I can put it up for a few days, or in reading, if I can let what I have been reading for awhile, and then come back to either or both, that I find the psyche has continued working the material almost in spite of me. Then when I reflect again, there is a richness that I had not expected. So you have a good impulse here, to let things steep a bit, then return.

          Dennis Slattery

            Do our surroundings shape us by mythologizing these symbols within us?  Was one landscape more intense than the other and in what way?  So, what do our childhood surroundings say about us? Is there a symbol that we carry unconsciously somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts?

            I love these questions, Shaahayda. And your descriptions of mountains, your own geography growing up and then these fine questions suggest to me that the geography we inhabit has profound impacts on our thinking. I remember when my wife, son Matt at the time 3.5 years old and I were invited to live in Rome, Italy for two years where I taught for the Univ. of Dallas’ semester abroad program. I also directed the program for 3/4 of the time we were there.

            We felt a deep transformation walking the streets of Rome, Florence, Assissi, and so many others, largely because of the fountains, the mythic statues, the landscape animated by so much art. When we returned to Dallas and visited other American cities, we felt like we were in a wasteland: no images, no living myths around us in shapes and figures. The two years in Italy shaped us in ways that we feel today with gratitude. I can only imagine living at the base of a mountain. We lived close to the shores of the Pacifica ocean for 15 years as well and know the ocean changed us as well.

            That these places become symbolic presences in us is without a doubt true. So worthy of reflecting on, for in the memory we also mythologize our past, story them into coherence where they may not have had such coherence at the time. So geography, memory, telling our life events as a continuous story–all these shape who we are in very positive ways. Thank you for all your wisdom in your postings, Shaahayda. A pleasure to read them.



            Hello Dennis and everyone,

            Exactly, I do love to let my thoughts simmer for a bit. My initial thoughts can be overwhelming and chaotic and I can easily get stuck in semantics.

            So let me jump directly into the issues you raised  in your replies to me. I also didn’t mean to say that the meaning/experience category was antagonistic. Meaning ofcourse is embedded in our experience but as soon as we go after meaning consciously/rationally we also create another category of experience that of meaninglessness or at least that is how the mind understands it. I do see much more clear now after I read your replies again. The transition wasn’t going from meaning to experience so much but from tackling meaning rationally which made me transition from a rationally oriented world-view (causal) to one that was mythical (acausal) holding causality and acausality at the same time (took me a while to understand what that meant, heh), I do enjoy my paradox more these days. Now that I remember my experience better, it is true, that I had a tremendous wrestle with meaninglessness for years, an experience of alienation from my mythical self, or what Campbell would call our inner most being, no doubt. To say the battle was epical and that I got over-cooked is the understatement of the century but I went through to the other side so all is good.

            I do have to say this though because that is how I feel. I still stand by my initial statement that meaning and meaninglessness has become irrelevant at this specific period of my life. Ofcourse my activities and experiences are meaningful to me, I just don’t think about it anymore, I do the stuff that seem most fulfilling to me. I did a bit of research on this experience and I found this quote from Jung which describes a lot how I feel these days.

            If you marry the ordered to the chaos, you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness. Carl Jung, Liber Novus

            You gotta love Jung how he links meaning with order and chaos with meaninglessness. Yeap.. that is how it feels.

            I hope sharing this, is relevant somehow with the conversation and your essay. I think it is, right? Since one of the themes on your essay is one that has to do literalism and the metaphorical. I guess going from experiencing life rationally in literal terms to something more metaphorical embracing the mythical has something to do with my thoughts and experiences, I hope. I do like to make it personal though so anyways. 🙂

            Thank you very much for your time and thoughts. I do enjoy your writing style a lot and your approach to the business of living. Awesome.


            Dennis Slattery

              Thank you very much Drewie, for your further reflections on what you have contributed to this site and reflections that grew from my essay. Very gratifying. I like the fluid nature of your response as you move about in these subtle fields of meaning and its absence. If we think about our experiences and their meanings in terms of a well-used metaphor of Figure/Ground, wherein as we pay attention to one experience as a figure of our attention, then our other experiences for that moment become ground and recede, but do not disappear, from our screen of awareness. When we concentrate on experience, meaning becomes ground. If we concentrate on the meaning, then the experience becomes ground; but this is a fluid relationship.

              When, for example, Stephen Daedalus in Joyce’s magnificent novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is walking along the strand outside of Dublin, lost in his philosophical musings, the world is ground. But then he looks ahead of him and sees a beautiful young woman, with her skirt hiked and tucked into her belt, entering the water, he gasps in a moment of “aesthetic arrest.” Now the world becomes ground to this marvelous figure that transforms Stephen on the spot. We all have these moments of aesthetic arrest where the world disappears under the pressure and the pleasure of such a vision.

              I sense this presence in you in your last response. Keep it going; being a bit fluid is more open to the imaginal than to be too fixed in place or idea. Thanks Drewie.

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