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The Principle of Honor: A Poor Substitute . . . ” with Craig Deininger, Ph.D.”

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    Craig Deininger, Ph.D. – mythologist, poet, Jungian scholar, and construction worker – joins us this week in Conversations of a Higher Order to discuss “The Principle of Honor: A Poor Substitute for the Real Thing” (click on link to read), his latest contribution to JCF’s MythBlast essay series. In addition to Jungian Psychology, Craig has taught writing, creative writing, and various literature courses at several colleges and universities, and has given multiple presentations on Imagination, Mythology, and Alchemy.

    I will get the ball rolling with a comment and a question or two, but please join in and engage Craig directly with your questions and comments. Frankly, it’s your thoughts, reactions, observations and insights that expand this beyond just another interview into a communal exchange of ideas – a true “conversation of a higher order.”

    Craig, your essay this week certainly takes the cake! (Pun intended – anyone who doesn’t get it will just have to read your MythBlast.)

    You note that in Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth, “Joseph Campbell hones in on the distinction between principled honor and honor that is genuine.” Your essay focuses on the example of Parzival, who is inhibited from spontaneously expressing compassion by the obligations of honor associated with his social rank.

    It is intriguing that we chose honor as our theme this month at JCF, considering how poorly “honor” fares in Arthurian lore. Campbell highlights tale after tale where honor fails. For example, discussing the romance of Tristan and Isolde, he shares the episode where they have been banished and retreat to to the woods, to their own little love nest, when along comes the cuckolded King Mark out on a hunt:

    “And Tristan thinks, If Mark comes and looks down and sees us asleep together, that would be bad. So what does he do? He places his sword between himself and Iseult. This is honor against love—and Tristan has sided with honor. This is the sin of Tristan, to have put the sword between them.” (Romance of the Grail 104)

    King Mark spies them asleep, sees the sword between, thinks he must have misunderstood the nature of their relationship which he now believes to be innocent, and so welcomes them back to court, where (surprise!) complications ensue . . . all because Tristan chose honor over love.

    And when Sir Lancelot goes forth to rescue the abducted Queen Guinevere in the tale of “Lancelot, Knight of the Cart,” honor again falls short:

    “He is walking along in a suit of armor, not getting very far very fast. And a cart, driven by a churl, a peasant, catches up with him. As it passes, Lancelot thinks, If I were in that cart I’d get to Guinevere faster. But then he worries about his loss of honor and his reputation as a knight. So he hesitates for three steps about getting into the cart. Why? Because people who ride in the cart are being taken to be hanged or punished in some way. It’s a dishonor to get into the cart. But finally he does.” (Romance of the Grail 139)

    Yet, when Lancelot finally frees his royal damsel in distress, her reaction is not what he expected:

    When he comes in to receive her greeting and gratitude, however, she’s as cold as ice. Why? Because he hesitated for three steps before getting on that cart.” (Romance of the Grail 140)

    Honor, in all three tales, prevents each hero from acting out of his own true nature, which comports with the distinction you make between genuine honor and honor-by-principles – the difference between one’s own true nature, and what is imposed on one from outside oneself.

    I notice that in all three stories (explicitly so for Parzival and Lancelot in Campbell’s account) the social aspect of honor is bound up with reputation – sort of a medieval version of “what will the neighbors think?” Spontaneous expressions of one’s true nature are consciously checked, to varying degrees, by ego concerns.

    Obviously, living an authentic life, where one acts honorably, doing the right thing because that’s who one is, rather than because that’s what’s expected, is the ideal. These heroes of yore aren’t there yet, not at these points in their stories; indeed, few of us automatically start out there (which may explain why society does need rules).

    So my question is what thoughts do you have on how we get from here to there? What do these tales, or other myths, tell us about how to find and act out of that center in our own being?


    Thank you, Stephen. It’s a pleasure to engage the content more thoroughly in the COHO and dive into deeper detail or explore broader fields. Your prompting questions are excellent. Let’s take them in order. So, how do we get from here to there? That is, how do we get to that point where character traits (like honor) that we hold in such high esteem become natural expressions of ourselves? Simple answer: Still working on it. But this simple answer has more to it than just a playful response because it leans into “process” over “product.” That is, it speaks to that wonderful quote from Chogyam Trungpa that I am so very fond of: “The path is the goal.” And this quote “does” so many good things, I’ll just have to skip them all for now.

    A good place to begin, however, would be to apply the spirit of Trungpa’s quote to our present inquiry, which would then read something like: “The here is the there.” But let’s not make the mistake of leaving it at that and think we have it! I can’t walk around repeating “The here is the there” or “I am honorable” and expect my character to become more honorable or compassionate or what have you—not in a profound and lasting way, at least.

    Also, in addressing this here-to-there, I believe I’m also responding to the second prompt: What do the myths tell us about how to find and act out of that center in our own being? First, I think to the activity of reading the myths in their entirety so that one can be in thorough relationship with them as they are. I find that the messages and themes that they carry are best known by not ascribing abstract names and categories to all those moving parts under the hood, so to speak. But rather by just putting the key in the ignition and driving out into the terrain. Call it gnosis–learning by osmosis.

    This gnostic region reminds me of Campbell’s response to Moyers when asked Why myths? And he responds:

    “I believe in being caught by it somehow or other…a feeling…of a deep, rich life-vivifying sort.” Granted, I’ve abridged a good deal of Campbell’s response, but have done so to emphasize those gnostic aspects—namely, aspects that recognize a sense of calling—aspects that are emotional or intuitive—in short, experiential.

    Okay, that’s a lot of talk about the stuff we can’t really talk about, or rather, that we can only talk about. So, now to the next tier down [following the same tiers that Joe shares in that great story about what his mentor Heinrich Zimmer said] where we do get under the hood to the practical mechanics, and which does augment the experience of the those things we can only talk about, albeit in a different way. In this tier I think of approach, interpretation, and, especially, integration.

    These days, I think of integration as infusing and holding spirit within matter. Or, in less esoteric terms, infusing and holding the abstract within the concrete. Or, in the present case, infusing and holding an attribute like honor within one’s person, or better, one’s body.

    To this end, in recent years, my path-as-goal has been to engage the graspable, to find (or build) those footholds and handholds of solid, literal rock—I know, I’m not supposed to say “literal” when employing a metaphor (which in fact I am employing), forgive the contradiction. But I put it that way because little wrongful-uses of language like that are worth it when they add tangibility to the content that I am handling in my imagination. The tangibility-aspect substantiates and integrates so that the vehicles of these mythic metaphors may have their fullest connotative potency.  And the myths, after being themselves, are metaphors when we approach them as such. Anyway, more on metaphor for another time, alas. For now, it’s just so very important, I think, that they are approached as literally and concretely as possible—as touchable. This touchable quality likens them to the “path” or to the “here” that I addressed above and not to that ethereal, conceptual “goal” or “there” even though the “goal” and “there” are precisely what we’re aiming for! Ha, kind of ironic.

    Those who are familiar with Jung’s work will have no doubt by now thought about his work with alchemy—where the practitioners of that art handle the matter to speed the correlative psychic transformation. (And by psychic, I do mean ‘soul’ as the Greek word psyche denotes). Among the many traditions, I believe there are a good many that are (or get me to) a more ethereal “there.” But I also believe that alchemy is unsurpassed in its integrative value. And that the themes of its methodology can be applied to any practice when a practitioner of whatever tradition wishes to focus more on integration because the chief aim of integration is not to transform, but rather to hold the transformation.

    I guess what I’m saying is if I reach too far, it becomes abstract and does not hold. It cannot hold because my reach has extended beyond the stuff-ness that makes a thing hold or holdable in the first place. So, in how an attribute like honor can be genuinely had via mythology in a practical way, I think an alchemical approach/interpretation is the second-best that we can do. And that “second-best” is, in the context of our present and more-mechanical approach, the “first-best.”  My goodness, I’ve probably gone too far into all this, and in too many directions, but wanted to put a few pieces in play for the conversation.


      “To this “miraculous” turn of events, Campbell emphasizes that “through your own integrity, you evoke your destiny, which is a destiny that never existed before” (79). Of all things, be they Grail-specific or not, that one insight is profoundly inspiring: that our destinies (i.e., our stories) are surely not written in stone, and that they can be inflected and redirected at any point if we simply embrace the fact that they are only and ever our own.”


      Wow; what great reflections you suggest on this timeless theme of the hero; who after all is really us but we don’t realize it. But that is the point of these mythical stories; to inspire us to take up our own journey and bring forth our own high adventure out of the wasteland. They elicit the echo of something that resides deep inside us that resonates that longing of authenticity that is missing. But how it is from our reluctance we feel hesitant and somehow not up to the task that keeps us from following our hearts desire. “Oh I couldn’t do that”; as Joseph recounts to Bill Moyers in the “Power of Myth”; “I couldn’t be that thing that calls to me; on no; I’m not good enough, or worthy enough.” But that’s the point isn’t it? That’s your potential life looking back at you and calling to you saying: “follow me if you dare regardless of what others may think”.

      Now there are other calls to life to be sure; but all to often I think we look at models and ask: “where is the script?; where is the roadmap?; where are the directions that are suppose to be included?; don’t these things have directions on how to construct my journey?; which is after all my own myth; my life; that thing; that hunger; that feeling of incompleteness that won’t let me rest. Oh I’ll just go with the herd and get a treadmill job and be like everybody else because I want to fit in; and your point about Heinrich Zimmer I think is well taken because Joseph said what he learned from him was to interpret the myths out of what got from his own experience and not gluing himself to what somebody else said.

      To me this is the authenticity of your own experience; and like the version of the Fisher King; the Fool responds with the question” What ails thee?” that restores the kingdom of wounded King because his heart told him it was the right thing to do; not what others might think.

      As Joseph mentioned about Arthur’s knights at the Roundtable; “that they thought it would be a disgrace to go into the dark forest as a group; but to pick a point where it was darkest that each had chosen and to enter alone; because as you mention that point of honor refers to something in you; not the herd. Yes; we are social creatures and we are to treat each other as we would want to be treated just like the “golden rule” suggests. But our higher nature; that thing poets and artists refer to has to come from inside where the real depth resides; that thing that says: “I’m going to do this no matter what”; and we must respond with courage to face those things within ourselves that others may not like because we know it’s right regardless of what anyone else may think. Joseph mentioned the Grail was delivered by the neutral angels; and your life is like a wheel rolling out of it’s own center with you being in charge of your for and against; your yes and your no; it’s you who gets to decide what the meaning of your life is going to be. He also adds there are lots of meanings of life to choose from; lots of models; and that you need to find that thing that speaks to you and follow your own way. It’s not about one model being “the model”; you are the hero of your own life; and what speaks to the character of your own destiny is the call. You might have a little magical aid or advice at some point; but in the end what you honor is what your heart tells you is right; and that’s what leads you forward.

      Sometimes there is inner conflict about what the right thing to do is and finer distinctions of judgement are called for; as the saying goes: “the head leads but the heart decides”; so now we are getting into Jungian territory.

      What is keeping you out of the Garden? Is it guilt about something you’ve done; or is it shame about feeling unworthy? Does it have to do with what people may think? Or is it involved with doing something you don’t like? This list could grow from here; but life is not simple and doing what you want instead of what may seem as correct can muddy the water. Metaphors can offer assistance; but how you use them can pose a challenge and you are on your own using simple solutions to complicated problems that may not always guide you to where you thought you might wind up.

      Redos or do-overs or train-wrecks may occur; so constant testing of the waters or seeing if the tightwire will hold you may be required as you make your crossings from one side to the other to get to your destination; and only to have it vanish before your eyes; (like the Grail Castle did for Percival). Yes; abstractions and literal interpretations are part of a larger mixed bag I think in not only how these mythic themes present themselves; but have a great deal to do with how we navigate them. Sometimes things will happen to you that will give you a clue to your adventure. You can be caught by something and be lead into the dark forest; or you can fall down “Alice in Wonderland’s” rabbit hole; or picked up by Dorothy’s tornado in the “Wizard of OZ” and hijacked from Kansas. You can intentionally seek out the Adventure like Arthur’s Knights did; or go along with Luke Skywalker following Obi-Wan Kenobi to find Yoda; or wind up in your version which never existed before and that’s the point I think; which is you have to watch and be aware of what’s going on in front of you. You are putting this thing together as you go along; making up your own model because life doesn’t tell you what it’s going to be. But Joseph also said if you put together a “scared space” and use it something will happen; that place where you find the things you truly love and spend time with them will help to point the way to where your heart and soul want to go.

      Hope I didn’t go too far off point Craig; you’ve chosen a great topic of which Honor is a working compliment to a much larger theme; and I like how you’ve opened this up to explore more dimensions.


      Yay found this conversation!
      Will gather up a musing to add.:-)


      Thank you, James. Now we are in it! I read your post and nod in agreement throughout as I simultaneously calculate on where to travel first: tropics? arctic? desert? personal myth? roadmaps? callings? So many to choose from. And fair enough, it’s good for me to get a taste of my own medicine. One thing I know for sure and that ties all this together (whether in your post or in my mythblast) is the earnestness to undertake both the journeys and the reflections—experiencing the myriad terrains (the adventure) and reflecting on the broader, uh, “things” that organize them. And I think it’s their balanced admixture that is most valuable.

      These “broader things,” I could say “metaphors,” “themes,” “archetypes,” etc., and be correct. But again, it’s that desire (if not obsession) of mine to just “go there,” to the terrain, and accrue a sort of knowledge of these terms not on their terms, so to speak. I guess what I’m doing here is making an adventure of the reflection—or lifting the conceptual and setting it down in the terrain-category.

      And to this I’m thinking, for example, of James Hillman’s insistence on “archetypal” in place of “archetype”—a move which has so many values. Foremost to me being that it forces one to engage what that term means more thoughtfully, concretely, descriptively, to find a language that really experiences it, and honors what it is as opposed to just stamping a word on it, i.e., noun-ing it, and presuming that takes care of everything.

      Okay, I’ll exit that direction since I can never find a satisfactory place to conclude when I go that way. And more importantly, you never used the word “archetype” in your post in the first place!

      Perhaps what I should have said from the start is simply: “Hey, let’s talk about the ‘roadmaps’ you mentioned in your post.” But these days, I truly am obligated to continually remind myself of that unavoidable meta-context that subsumes the entire journey-roadmap (adventure-archetype—oh no, I used the noun) relationship.

      Point being, your post addresses this relationship between the journey and the maps we extract from the myths (metaphors, themes, archetypes, etc.), reminding us that these maps are a tremendous help AND that they do not ensure the ease of the adventure: “Metaphors can offer assistance; but how you use them can pose a challenge and you are on your own using simple solutions to complicated problems that may not always guide you to where you thought you might wind up.”

      Indeed, we rarely do end up where we thought we would. And I would also add that rarely do we get there the way we thought we would. That was certainly the case for Parzival. And for Alice and Dorothy. I’m also reminded here of a line from Jung: “It is the longissima via, not straight but snakelike . . . a path whose labyrinthine twists and turns are not lacking in terrors.” But then, these patterns surely make for a better story.

      However, it’s less about “better” and more about “my/his/hers/their story.” And that is the authority of the unique, of individuation—aspects that you also address writing about how each of Arthur’s knights necessarily take their own path, alone. As it also emphasizes the importance of breaking free of the herd—the social-imposed stuff. But, I might add, not entirely breaking free of it—a point I think is analogous to your thoughts above on employing the metaphors on our adventures. That they are not entirely “answers,” but that they provide the general layout and direction within which we can take any (of a literally infinite) number of sub-directions, which in itself is a pretty promising formula for adventure.

      I have to get to pressing things, but want to post this first to keep the conversation in stride, incomplete though it is, and surely imprecise in train of thought. Didn’t even get to “honor.” In all fairness, I came in from yesterday’s plane trip at 4 am this morning. I’ll be more precise tomorrow evening! Thanks for all the great content and insights…


      I want to thank Craig Deininger for his thought provoking myth blast!

      Here is my response (posted originally as a stand alone topic until I wandered and found the kingdom of This Conversation! At last! Heh heh):


      I enjoyed reading Craig Deininger’s mythblast on the “Principle of Honor.” I did not put the name in my title for my own principle of honor…ok that’s just a joke. Heh heh.
      But Deininger’s essay touched a mythic nerve and made a strong, resonant impression. I have always been fascinated by the grail quests and Joseph Campbell’s take on them. Parzival often comes to mind. But first, I was thinking of the chocolate cake… holding to an outside-in honor in not taking the piece of cake seems like a society influenced response. And I think that is exactly what Deininger is suggesting. For others, there may be times and experience of guilt or having been embarrassed may also refrain them from taking the last piece of cake even if kindly offered. It’s that old subconscious saw Campbell has mentioned in relation to following one’s own path, “what will they think of me?” And that circles back around to Parzival. He goes to the castle of the wounded knight and all that is needed is the question “What ails you?” “That’s it. No exotic potions. No elaborate rituals.” (Quoting Craig Deininger and Joe Campbell and editor) Deininger moves past the “simple question” into the deeper psyche, the “spiritual adventure,” in which “asking the question is the realization of compassion.”
      For me, I love the simplicity of the question because that hints at being both simple and profound, mysterious perhaps and transcendent. The energy is within the Realization itself. In a world which thrives on complexity, it’s a breath of fresh air.

      Another passage which also stands out concerning Parzival: “His nature prompted him many times to ask the question. But he thought of his knightly honor.” (A Knight doesn’t ask questions)

      Then the line that bit into my psyche when Parzival does not ask the question:

      “The social ideal interfered with his nature and the result is desolation.”


      Craig Deininger goes on to say: “Principles applied dogmatically do not acknowledge one’s story as in ‘my story. They have their value but not when one applies their generic quality to specific contexts.” “Parzival’s commitment to the principle of honor extinguishes any engagement or enactment of an honor that is genuine.” This seems like a universal challenge. Parzival is called to listen to his nature his inner intuition which is ready to take the honorable action (from a deeper place in his mind and heart) but he plays a head trip on himself based on outside-in generic principles. It seems to me, that sometimes the individual path and the “inner call,” can too easily be dismissed or confused with a path of “Ego.” Team or group honor has its place and importance, but as Deininger says that generic form is out of place and does not fit the situation. But perhaps by Parzival’s training or his understanding Parzival has the mind idea, (which no doubt has been etched-in by repetition) that The “Group Principle,” Knightly code overrides what his inner voice and heart tell him. Perhaps he fears rebuke…peer pressure, failing the team. But he finally returns to the inner voice, is given a miraculous second chance to return to the grail castle. Then Parzival asks the question and “The Kingdom is healed.” The irony is he betrayed his team and the kingdom by not listening to the inner voice. But when he banished his own chatter and doubts as well as the outside-in expectations, then he succeeded and succeeded on behalf of what was greater than himself. And the Kingdom was healed… not by a complex ceremony or potion but by a simple question with profound energy-compassion/awareness. That sums up my impressions of Joseph Campbell and his insights and take on the cultural stories and myths of the world. Love it!

      Yet I am still haunted by that other line: “The social ideal interfered with his [Parzival’s] nature and the result is desolation.”

      Everyone in his/her/their own way has a chance to dive into the inner psyche or muse upon their paths and adventures. And relating to Joseph Campbell and his works is a fun way to do that to find the passion or dig deeper into and past the psyche. Yet sometimes I have a flicker in my perception, that the world seems to be in complete opposition to Joseph Campbell—-the aura and energy and insights, not the man himself. It feels mind bending at least after reading myths, which open doors to new horizons as well as bringing one back in balance with themselves as happened to Parzival. Campbell himself lamented a waste land waiting for a new myth. It’s as though someone passed out sheets or form emails saying “myth is not applicable or relevant this time around…and don’t ask questions…now is not the time…just read the instructions.”
      My strange feeling is the same as realizing I’m not looking at myself in the mirror, but I’m in the mirror looking at myself and need to get out so I can retune like Parzival did. It could be a bit frightening. Definitely a challenge for the psyche! But after having read this essay by Craig Deininger, I’m thankful because it is synchronous with the thoughts rumbling in my psyche. And I’m glad he wrote it. Right to the heart of the matter! And hopeful! There is always a place for myth and story and those deeper lessons and realizations. Even when shadows rise…(especially then) Very hopeful!

      Thank you Craig Deininger!


      Thank you. And what a great handle: sunbug. I makes me think to the Egyptian sun-at-dawn Khepri. Everything so on point in your post. You emphasized the social element (as Jamesn brought it up as well in his post), the whole “what will the neighbors think?” direction. And I realized I had glossed over that topic in my responses. I suppose it’s no accident that I have glossed over it since my focus is stacked (perhaps too heavily) on the inner-voice/daimon/individuated/etc. side of the scale these days.

      Point being, when it comes to following one’s own inner-voice, I’m sold! “Be yourself,” “Follow your intuition,” and all that. But upon further reflection, I must concede that, also, I do in fact care (regardless of to what degree) what the neighbors think of me. And I think this is inescapable for most of us. Apparently this was the case for Parzival for his first go-around.

      More importantly, I’m glad you brought ego into the conversation in this context—and by ‘ego,’ I’m thinking about the word more conventionally, that is, as in the “small-self” or self-importance within which we have, on one side of the scale, the inflation of hubris and in the middle we have healthy confidence or simply a sincere sense of duty and on the far end, humility even to the very unhealthy point of self-abasement. So, if my purpose is that the neighbor’s think I’m great, then I have failed (but may take some victory if I am able to reflect on the insecurity that fueled my ambition in the first place!) But what of simply doing a thing I am told is “right action” because I sincerely want to serve society in that action? Now it gets tricky.

      In reflecting on Parzival’s story, Joseph Campbell points out that even one’s sense of dharma can impede the genuinely honorable way or the genuinely higher road. It reminds me of that quote from Meister Eckhart: “The ultimate leave-taking is leaving God for God.” Or dropping a dharmic principle of one’s social position for a higher dharma. And this applies to those outside-in principles you mention as well. Even though, I think the outside-in principles are quite valuable depending on where one is on their path in any given context. Sure, following the prompting of the inner self through compassion and sincerity is the home run. But it doesn’t mean beating out a groundball to first base is valueless. And I write this after disparaging the principles in my mythblast—proof that I have yet to figure this stuff out, ha!

      But I’m good with the contradictions. It’s complicated. It’s simple. It’s contextual. It’s universal. On that note, like you bring up with the simplicity of the question or like Jamesn’s “simple solutions to complicated problems that may not always guide you…” But also, the (apparent) complexity of it all, is also life-like, if not life itself. And which I think makes all these possibilities, uh, possible.

      On that note, I teach some mythology classes, and in the last year I suddenly found myself saying: “The myths are messy.” It just started coming up when students hit me with very tough questions about complicated content—especially ethically-complicated content (but also, logically complicated content as well)—that comes up so frequently in the myths.

      But, I do think that’s the first layer in. Beneath this, the complexity deepens. But also, the deeper one goes into the complicated matter the more leverage there is for a simple solution or, at least, perspective. And is why I appreciate your attention to the “simple” in your post. And more so, that you write about looking in the mirror and re-tuning like Parzival did. Reflection is so very the name of the game, I think. And to those with the strength to do it, goes the treasure. On that note, last week’s mythblast by Mark C. E. Peterson has great things to say about reflection.

      So reflecting on this “what will the neighbor’s think?” point. Jamesn mentions guilt and shame; you mention guilt and embarrassment. Indeed, none are independent of their influence. But when they do come, reflection is the great move (and I’m going on and on about reflection here because I’m working for a simple solution). It’s not that they come (the things that push us to be concerned about neighbors’ opinions) but rather recognizing first that they have come, and second (and more important) reflecting on why they have come—meaning, really, why I have projected them! And that is one way that we all are able to step out of the socially driven context, and into the inner-self, personal context. Precisely as you point out: as Parzival did. And it worked!


      What a wonderful articulate response!

      As for the sun bug handle, the Egyptian scarab god goes well with it…there is definitely a beetle connection but one more with an A heh heh. But that also includes a “sun song.” And yes the sun itself.

      I agree we all worry about what the neighbors think. Comes with the human territory. And we try to do our best in life and hitting the ball to first base is a worthy accomplishment. Love the baseball metaphors. My Mother loved baseball.
      Now I’m feeling contradictions too.

      I teach dance and it sometimes takes time especially when coaching a student in ballet or (tap my forte) for those outside-in principles to kick-in: how one should carry the body or present the form or tune into the rhythm of the steps.

      But at a certain point it becomes rooted in the body-mind so deeply, that it becomes second nature. Then the dancer just dances, performs making almost subconscious adjustments for technique. And can be in the joy and moment of that!
      Though in tap the rhythm stays forefront even if doing a ballet tap. Ok that’s a wander off the trail.
      But back to the “neighbors…”

      Don’t know if a disclaimer is needed because you definitely picked up my intent and expression.

      The hardest road now in mythology and perhaps exactly because it is “messy,” is broadbrushing and knee jerk.

      My inner Parzival can’t help doing an internal knee jerk at broadbrushing.

      That is why forums like this one are so very refreshing.:-)

      The experience of  Myth is about looking deeper below the surface, while at the same time being wise enough to not look the basilisk in the eye.

      And I meant to mention something in response to your responses to Stephen and Jamesn.

      You kept referencing experiencing the myth or stories “as is” or “concretely.”

      But unless I’m wrong…it reminds me of what Campbell said about the Greek plays. He was quoting someone else…but the idea was that the audience while watching the play “held a suspension of disbelief,” ie they for the time of the play they are “engaged with it” and are experiencing it as is.”

      To me that’s the impression I have when you are speaking of reading a myth “as is” or “concretely!”

      It is also like all the initiations where the individual goes through literal crawling through the cave even though it’s a metaphor for rebirth or transformation.

      It’s interesting the way you don’t completely dump the ego at least when it’s balanced in confidence rather than inflation or abasement. You suggest That the ego in balance has its place, which just proves that the outside-in opinions affect us all. Heh. It’s a reminder to not be too hard upon ourselves.

      This just my opinion but when coming from a deeper or organic knowing or intuition (not hunch of the day intuition but real heart/nature/gut/psyche intuition)

      I feel that compassion is inevitable because it is the true nature of most humans when allowed to be. (Unless one is a psychopath)
      I’m Not saying that compassion  doesn’t come from nurture as well in young children. And that’s a wonderful thing!!

      And some would argue that some animals have shown traits of compassion as well.

      But the literal fear from surface readers of myth or the individual journey is that the “individual path” can lead to evil and the worst kind of ego.

      It seems as though it’s been that way since medieval religions and before.

      Non-conformity is always the path  of “the sinner.”

      But there is contradiction because every one is ok talking about individual career choices. Just don’t be too individual seems to be the message.

      I still know there is a place for teamwork…and know it’s important. yet because the world is a messy place and there are narcissists and worse in it, the broadbrush reaction is that individualism leads to narcissism.
      This is in complete opposition to the grail quests and the Campbell sort of ethos in which the healing comes by way of Parzival listening to his inner voice and thus opening the horizon making the healing possible.

      I think you are right…it becomes very tricky. And one doesn’t have to become a pirate to hear or follow the inner voice. The principle of “do no harm,” still applies.

      It’s true that a psychopath can be an individual.

      But not all individuals or Parzival’s are psychopaths.

      Broadbrushing here seems a bit risky.

      Yikes! But carrying on ….

      As for “right action,” that conjures another idea…gurus and teachers.
      The best teachers are the ones that encourage but also step back letting the individual find his/her/their own path. But I also remember what Campbell said about Gurus sometimes “stamping” their own picture on one’s quest. So the question: is the quest still authentic when that happens?

      “Right action” is a good and often necessary principle but when it is asked the fool inside might ask a strange question: “who is the guru or the messenger?” (yes I know supposed to hear the message and not concern oneself with the messenger too much—and messengers often get flak) but perhaps the fool inside wants to look in the guru’s or messengers’ eyes before committing… and that’s where things get even trickier and murky…because part of the commitment to the quest or ideal or action is also “trust.”
      If the messenger and message is trusted, then it is a no brainer.
      But then what of the intuition?

      If the trust is intuited or reasoned…or even expected…?

      But if the intuition veers later…oh my are we in trouble…!

      At least Parzival had a miraculous 2nd chance…which did the job before he could be held accountable for not being a team player. Though teamwork in music and baseball and others settings is awesome! Firefighters rehabilitaters…the list goes on!

      Ok that other stuff…Must be the trickster in me. Sorry about that!

      I think what drew me to this Parzival post is that the individual path and the group paths should be in harmony.

      Teams are needed but so are scouts on the horizon. The idea of breaking the ground or opening the path or seeing something from a different angle. Or having a new inspiration… Then working together…to realize that…

      But to be fair inspiration comes in teams too. Just look at all the wonderful music in the world that came about through collaboration!
      Each individual has something to add to the whole.

      When in balance then perchance the connection to Universal harmony or Consciousness is greater!

      But just as in the past,  (just my own perception) the “Group Ideal” seems to be held above and in higher regard than the individual “journey.”
      Even the word individual has a growing “bad connotation.” (Because of broad brushing applying bad examples to “throw out the whole bushel of apples.”)

      What was it you said: Ah yes applying a generic solution that doesn’t fit the problem or circumstances. Cookie cutter answers are easier but might not be the best. I just find it very sad. Especially as so many on the planet (individuals) in their own unique Parzival-ways opened up the horizon and changed the world bringing new knowledge, insights and healing.
      We still need our scouts as well as teams. And casting them out seems unwise. But might depend on definitions: ? Team as Scouts good… Individual/s as Scouts bad? 
      Too simplistic a reading? Perhaps. Depends on the scouts/teams?
      It also depends upon circumstance and motive, innate compassion or greed (or desperation?) and the presence or lack of deeper honor within the individual/s the guru, or the team.

      Collaboration…that’s the higher sense now… “everything is a collaboration.” And the individual or the now tainted idea of individualism (which in my opinion is being detrimentally conflated with narcissism) are run into the ground.
      A generic definition for specific bad apples.

      But collaboration can be beautiful and I sometimes think it happens spontaneously from a less heady area making it even more beautiful.


      It’s ironic…when Parzival collaborated with his team he failed, but when he collaborated with his inner knowing, he succeeded  which suggests collaboration is not primarily an “outside-in” thing.
      But that makes people uncomfortable because because Parzival making a choice separate from the team would normally be deemed as selfish and non-inclusive. But it becomes inclusive because the kingdom is healed. If everyone is patient enough to see that. His decision supported the team.

      I also do not think being an individual or following a Parzival path disconnects one from Collective Consciousness or Universal consciousness. Or kindness to others!!

      In fact the whole point was for Parzival to be aware!
         When he asked the question! And that awoke the compassion!

      So it’s both complex and simple. Complex perhaps because pre-conceived ideas have to be thrown out…complex because not everyone is coming to the same intuition and there will be conflict. And the desire to do no harm. But once the bridge is crossed and the question asked…the Aha! Happens.
      Perhaps for those who strive or hope on universal consciousness… it might be the same…getting from the point of wanting people to come together to the realization of already being there. And all that’s needed is awareness. We see glimpses of this when music draws people together. And one does not have to be in a group to feel that connection to the Greater Consciousness…they can if they want to be…that’s ok but being an individual is ok too. What did Campbell say about more people going in smaller groups into the forest? In ones, twos and threes etc?


      Now I’ve muddled it up! Sorry my apologies to Stephen and Craig and rest of message board. Wandering out on tangents…proves I should save morning or day for writing heh!

      So I am going to return to the simplicity and reflect on that because the quiet and simple things are a nice place to be. And sometimes they reveal more.

      But what do I know? Sometimes I  feel like the hobbits: very small in a wide, wide, world.
      Thank you again for your elegant response Craig! And I look forward to reading the other Myth Blast on reflection.


      Craig, thank you for pointing me to Mark C.E. Peterson’s post on reflection. Enjoyed reading that! And can also relate to standing under the gaze of that particular Athena!
      But after my long disjointed ramble last night, realized I had not answered upon reflection the worry of “what the neighbor’s will think of me?”

      My reflection  is:?the fear of rejection and or being cast out from the group…the desire to be a team player for a more surface but subconsciously rooted reason…

      then there are those who even though they feel differently innately would rather avoid conflict than listen to the inner voice. Maybe that was true for “P” as well?

      Or at a more extreme end “punishment” and “ridicule,” for not matching up the “accepted wisdom dejour.”

      Or perhaps a fear that without the group guidance one will cause harm because they are not ready to trust themselves, the inner knowing.

      An aside on trust since I blearily brought that up in previous post. Should have said trust becomes a factor not just between oneself and others BUT also between one’s self and SELF.
      Just as collaboration can happen between people AND happen within one’s self.


      Then there might be the conflict that the “group wisdom or code,” is always more honorable or altruistic than one’s own internal radar or inner voice. So here the messy conflict begins

      Parzival feels something different but what if he is ashamed…he’s not supposed to…it’s selfish and wrong he must adhere to traditional or accepted wisdom.
      Wasn’t Parzival kind of new to the “questing” at first.
      How could a “newbie” like him possibly find a key his more experienced peers did not?
      Then the fear of offending comes in—his intuition can’t possibly be right because the other Knights by experience and code should be much better and wiser than Parzival.
      He is an upstart…and fears rocking the boat.

      When I’ve mentioned Parzival in passing to others who know of the Arthurian stories funnily Parzival successes seem to be absent from their perspective.
      It seems like there are some who perceived Parzival as the “unworthy” knight…the bad knight…the one who messed up.
      It’s only through Joe Campbell and these other deeper mythic translations where Parzival is allowed a little light to shine. Or it seemed that way to me. Laugh.
      Maybe it’s different now. (I hope heh heh)

      But it also shows the message of the deeper honor (internal) is sometimes still missed or misunderstood in modern times.

      So yes sorry was all over the place in the winding post last night. But coming back with a clearer head wanted to just give my reflective thoughts on “why” so many have knee jerk reactions to “what the neighbors will think of me?”

      Guess there is still a way to go reflecting on honor.

      -borrowing from both C.E. Peterson and Craig Deininger! 😉


      Wow, so many options to take into the forest. Thank you. I’m responding here more to your post prior to the one directly above. And as regards tangents from topics or focus, I am a regular in that. I value going off the trail and discovering what otherwise would not be seen. Being a lifelong backpacker, at one point I realized “Hey, we’re not exploring the wilderness here, not deeply, not if we’re stuck on this extremely thin curvy line called a “trail”). So I no longer travel with peak-baggers, record-setters in time from one campsite to the next, etc. I’ve discovered my fair share of mini grail kingdoms that way: off the trail, places within the map’s boundaries, but unmarked and unknown to the map.

      You mentioned that saying I like, “the myths are messy” and I wanted to camp there for a moment, because it’s not intended as a broadbrushing (love that term by the way). And I’m confident you did not take it that way evidenced by your worthy suspicions of that term. Anyway, I’m really fond of it when I’m deep in the narrative of the myth or the myth of my own life, the actual scenes, plots, characters, and settings. We see the trees and rocks and creatures all doing and being what they do and are: and it is (in that context) random—or at least appears random which still counts as random for my psychic reality. In that random, disorganized space, “messy” can surely crop up.

      And a common theme we’re always touching on in these posts is applying the patterns, centers of gravity, archetypes, etc., of the myths. And that’s the organizing force to me—the map—the pulling back and not just seeing the trees before me but rather the whole forest even though it is more abstract—a concept or at least we can say that a piece of paper with topography-lines and writing on it is not a “forest.”

      Just felt like looking at that for a moment.

      I like what you said about that certain point for a dancer where the moves “become rooted in the bodymind so deeply that it becomes second nature. Then the dancer just dances…” If I may call it “intuitive movement” at that point. And if that is acceptable, then “structure” (which so often is viewed as limiting, as the imposition of boundaries), ironically becomes supportive of that intuitive, natural way of moving, dancing.

      I bring it up because I hear your appreciation and affinity for intuition when you mention it. It is my preferred of the four functions (i..e., Jung: feeling-thinking-intuiting-sensing). In fact, I’ve come to prefer it so much that I seek out those structures that I once felt were the enemies of intuition (like logic, rationality, etc.) so that their “form-al” presence actually deepens the intuition. Perhaps it is by contrast, as in working one’s inferior function, like a board on a fulcrum and I heave a chunk of logic on one side and intuition goes leaping into the air on the other.

      If I compare with this idea of how we apply the “forest-view” of mythology to the “messy” or random “in-the-narrative” moments, then perhaps one’s practice/training in reading and reflecting on mythology provides that structure that awakens the natural, intuitive individual (as with Parzival’s second go-around). So that, while seeing the terrain, one sees the themes that saturate that terrain, and, ideally, without even knowing it.

      Thank you for sharing so much good stuff. I enjoy diving in when and where the intuition takes. Surely there’s so much more you presented that is equally worthy of exploring/being with.


      I knew you were not broad brushing with the term “messy.” It is very accurate. Some myths in a literal sense can be erg! But there are so many more levels to that as you explain very articulately!
      I agree about intuition and it’s funny but that’s the second time today something synchronous has happened in relation to the JCF message boards…where my own inner thoughts caught a reflection back…Shaahayda Rizvi in a separate posting and now you in this. Glimmer of collective consciousness? Why not? Who am I to question that.
      As for messy, when you mentioned going off the trail and discovering your own literal paths in the forest, I also thought about “ticks!” Yes so there it is! And I imagine if Mr. Parzival’s horse was in warmer climes he’d be picking ticks off his steed as well!
      It’s always something in these journeys but you know there is some risk stepping out that door…

      But ticks aside…

      I love the way you describe your discovery of mini grail kingdoms!
      It is true.
      And I would say grail moments too.
      Even being still and seeing a doe walk down below my front yard is thrilling.
      Or appreciating the rhythm of the rain after a long spate of sun.
      The hawk’s cry clear and piercing the blue…

      As for rhythm and speaking of dance, no you did not offend me.
      Intuitive movement is a good description. There are some excellent threads relating to Jean Erdman describing all that journey.
      I would add and now here comes the tangent…that discovering the ability to improv…is hugely freeing (done in respect when dancing to live bands)

      And it’s wonderful when people dance to music regardless of training. I make no judgement on that…we all feel the music one way or another or make our own rhythm.
      As for the structure and discipline, which I know well from ballet training.
      Ballet is the backbone of dance, especially when engaging in more than one form. It’s not primarily about carriage and posture but about core, having a solid center.
      And even more important preventing injury when one is executing difficult moves.
      It’s true that some instructors can push students too far at risk not only to physical but also mental health.
      But I was lucky and the people who trained me in ballet cared more about longevity of their dance students and also in the case of Peggy Fletcher “heart.”
      Parzival probably had to ride a horse moderately well and be able to be fairly in tune with the animal regardless of the decisions he made.
      In dance, it’s more about having the proper equipment for the journey.
      And I know what a twisted ankle deep tissue injury feels like…so yes there is a big motivation to hold and do things the proper way. It does become ingrained. The only thing that a dancer loses a little is flexibility and endurance in case of tap especially but the latter can be built back. And later on in life having some flexibility is ok… but I’m not gung ho on being gumby!
      But if students have injuries I’d prefer to put their health above pushing them to execute something and will gladly work around that whether young student or adult.
      But the improv for me is completely intuitive and yes I do “on the spot choreography,” but that’s what makes it so fun! Listening to live music feeling the mood and finding an intuitive movement to match it with no judgment as long as I keep in mind my surroundings and other people about.




      Beautiful accounts and parallels with the dance. Of all the arts I think dance is unmatched in some things, especially in transience and the power and kinds of beauty that are associated with ephemerality–flowers, sunsets, a rainbow. Unlike a sculpture or painting or poem where a hunk of clay, a brush-stroke or written-line remains, with the dancer each move is made and is gone. Similarly with music.

      It’s reminiscent of the Tibetan sand mandalas, and their emphasis on the transience of, I guess, all relative phenomena and not just patterns of beautifully colored sand. I’m not at that level of detachment just yet—(i.e., not going to burn my poems right after I’ve written them). What I also appreciate about dance is that it virtually requires no equipment—essentially, only what we’re already born with: a body.

      To me there’s something profound about an art not requiring a bunch of extraneous technology that really brings it back to the core—which you mention regarding ballet being about the core. And what’s been a recurring theme in this thread: the relationship between one’s true nature and that which is imposed from outside it. Like Parzival’s case shows. Tend the core and the outer will follow. Or a quote I like from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: “Water the root to enjoy the fruit.” (i.e., if the apple looks unhealthy I’ll not go out there with a spraybottle and towel to spritz and polish it back to health).

      So that core where the inner-voice, self, intuitive acumen, etc.—I prefer to put the majority of my chips on these, though perhaps at the expense of the outer, that outer technology like “Hey, I’m going to accrue some more of the character trait of patience today, because I know I don’t have it constantly and uncontainably pouring out from my core (which as I keep repeating, and mostly to myself, has its values)—but it’s not the gold or diamonds or whatever one deems as great treasure.

      But the attitude does succeed in “pushing” open some doors, although the true inner nature, the core place, when that’s on, I think the doors are more prone to just opening on their own for someone who is genuinely in that place. Well, two very long days of carpentry work and fighting the zzzzzzs now, but wanted to respond. Great stuff. Will have a look tomorrow after work!


      A beautiful reflection on dance Craig!

      Rather than heeding other trickster tangents beckoning into the forest on dance and other thoughts…instead will include some links just for viewing.
      since sometimes a space of silence is needed. Grin.

      Here is one performance really moved me Alvin Ailey.


      Robert Mirabal it starts 4 secs after the commercial message..oops.

      (and sorry Stephen this is off thread topic but to pull it back to topic even though Robert’s show had great acclaim with people from all walks of life as well as the Native American people of this country…

      He had his own Parzival moment in sharing this with a broader audience as I understand that some of the leaders (at that time) in his village felt he was opening up too much to outsiders…but I’m thankful he did!

      Robert Mirabal “The Dance.”





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