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Tossing the Golden Ball,” with mythologist Catherine Svehla, Ph.D.”

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    Welcome to first time MythBlast author Catherine Svehla, Ph.D. , our guest in Conversations of a Higher Order (COHO)  this week to discuss her essay, “Tossing the Golden Ball” (click on title to read). Though new to the MythBlast essay series, Dr. Svehla is no stranger to myth, or to the Joseph Campbell Foundation. Catherine, a storyteller, teacher, artist, and activist with a PhD in Mythological Studies and Depth Psychology, is a key player in a number of JCF initiatives past, present, and future.

    Catherine also hosts Myth Matters (which is a member of JCF’s MythMaker℠ Podcast Network), a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the relevance of myth and story to contemporary life (her most recent podcast, for example, is entitled “Not Just About the Ukraine”).  In her workshops and story circles she has a gift for tickling out mythological and nuances; she won’t tell you what  a myth means, but provides the tools, encouragement, and inspiration that allow people to discover the transformative power of Story in their own lives. (On a personal note, I know a number of wonderful mythologists and storytellers I can recommend who do amazing work – but Catherine’s approach is the one that speaks best to me.)

    This is not an interview, but a conversation: it’s your opportunity to share your thoughts, questions, comments, and observations with Dr. Svehla about her essay, and/or myth in general.

    Catherine – since this is your first visit to our forum, I’ll get things started by asking some general questions about your background so COHO participants can get to know you better.

    Why myth? What first drew you to this field? Were you one of the lucky ones who knew early on that Story was your calling, or did that theme emerge later? And where, along the way, did you bump into Joseph Campbell’s work? Could you share an example of where you have felt his influence – and, if you’re a feeling a bit brave, maybe where you wish he’d said more (or less)?

    Before turning to your discussion of “The Frog Prince,” I notice that many mythologists, Campbell included, address both myths and fairy tales. How would you describe the difference, if any, between these two forms?

    That’s a lot of ground to cover – but it’s just an entry into the conversation. Feel free to answer one, or all, in as much or as little detail as you’d like.

    And thank you so much for coming to play with us in COHO!


    Hello Stephen, COHO and Mythblast readers! I’m excited to be part of this conversation.

    I came to myth through art and activism. Studying and making art taught me that myth is a dynamic conversation between the individual, society, and psyche, not merely a collection of old stories. The connection between my first career as a community organizer and mythology took a bit longer to reveal itself. But once I was in graduate school and thinking about unconscious or unrecognized myths in culture, the pieces fell into place.

    When I was in art school, I had an important conversation with one of my teachers. I was older than most of the other students and lamenting that I had come to my art practice too late. She said that some people choose a clear straight path very early and some take the winding mountain road. The winding mountain road leads to surprising discoveries and offers the best views, doesn’t it, she asked? I realized that my approach to life is exploratory, fueled by my curiosity about the world and my own nature. I’m kind of a bricoleur of experience, always shifting things around to see what can be made. This is how I approach myth, as my work and a personal practice.

    In my work with individuals over the years, I often sense the pressure to have a clear direction and make the “right” choices, and see how a person can get boxed in and lose the sense of adventure. The essential connection between soul and the aspiring ego is lost. You don’t pay attention to what rises up in you, as the poet Rilke says, because it doesn’t fit the plan. You miss your bliss.

    Having shared this bit of context… several weeks before my 40th birthday, I was inexplicably seized with the desire to go to graduate school “in some Jungian thing.” A friend told me about Pacifica. I was living in southern California at the time. I got a catalog. The first program listed was a masters in counseling. That sounded good. Practical. Useful. I kept reading. The last program in the catalog was Mythological Studies with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology. My whole body lit up. At the top of the page I wrote, “I have no idea what I will do with this, and so I will do it.” I earned my PhD and became a mythologist.

    It hasn’t been easy. It’s been experimentation and bricolage all the way. I discovered my talent for storytelling when I started a JCF Mythological Roundtable Group in Joshua Tree, CA. I didn’t have a plan, only a strong desire to have conversations about myth. The roundtable was a beautiful collaboration, one that created lasting community, shaped the cultural landscape, and launched me into the type of storytelling that I do today. Thank you JCF, and thank you high desert myth-lovers!

    You ask about my connection to Campbell’s work. I frequently turn to his books for commentary about a particular topic. The breadth of his scholarship continues to amaze me. He is also an important conversation partner, someone I can think with, and argue with. Campbell often frustrates me, his treatment of women in the hero’s journey, for example. And I find a hierarchy of being, the human species imagined as the pinnacle of intelligence and consciousness, a viewpoint to which I don’t subscribe. I wonder what Campbell would say in response to newer scientific discoveries about birds, elephants, trees, fungi, and many others on our planet who are more than metaphors.

    And, yet this frustration is so useful! Campbell reflects the viewpoint of a specific demographic at a certain point in time, and I think it’s important to remember this. Dream–and think– the myth forward. He did, and I think Campbell will continue to be an important touchstone. His work provides so many opportunities for engagement and argument, and his life is an inspiring example of a life lived within a mythic context. I read A Fire in the Mind, the Campbell biography by Stephen and Robin Larsen, before I started the roundtable. His story motivated me to take the leap, to grapple with myth in my life and share this process with others. His marvelous passion for living myth feeds my own.


      Hello Catherine. It’s a real treat to have you here for the first time, and one I’ve been looking forward to when Stephen first announced it. Your pdf: “Blisters on the Way to Bliss”; (which you shared with the Foundation a few years back), I personally think should be required reading for anyone who wants to get an understandable introduction to the idea of their own story and what that has to do with one’s “personal myth” that Joseph talks about so much throughout much of his lectures. And you utilized the motif of the Frog Prince in this piece as well as several other ones like Percival and the Buffalo Dance to help people get a sense of how to approach and construct their own process in finding out what this thing is within themselves.

      So, what is the idea of “one’s story” compared to one’s bio for instance? What do all these things contained in fairy tales and legends like Chivalrous Knights sitting around Round Tables and then going into the forest to slay Dragons so they can find some castle and marry a princess and live happily ever after; or throwing a Frog against a wall so they can restore some kingdom that’s been asleep “mean”? And what is this Grail business anyway? And what’s this stuff about a “golden ball and a well”? (Those are all metaphors you say?) Well, what the heck do metaphors that have to do with my life? A metaphor is something I learned about when I was half asleep in high school English class I always thought had to do with grammar, and I have no idea what this means with an emotional crisis. I see all this crazy stuff going on watching the news with Ukraine, and I’m just now getting through this pandemic stuff wearing a mask and don’t know if I’m going retire from some job I’m not too fond of and I’m frustrated what all this means. (Help me out here.) Story you say? And then you talk about all this other stuff as if it’s suppose to solve my problems. (Well; this aught to be good.)

      Your “pdf” is a masterclass in my humble opinion; but I think the link to it no longer works; so I wonder if you would expound on some of these themes a little bit and share a few of your insights on how one might construct or recognize what their personal myth is. The reason I’m requesting this is I think many who come to Joseph Campbell’s work may have heard about the “Hero’s Journey”; and some may have heard the name Carl Jung; but Joseph left a huge body of work, and for many new to these ideas he talked about might have problems understanding what this means to them and how certain motifs or patterns play very heavily into our modern life and how to navigate it; (like living within a system and getting in touch with one’s inner world can help them unravel some of these Gordian Knots that may be tearing them apart inside). For instance when we say: “Labyrinth, Minotaur, and Ariadne Thread” some may be familiar with the Greek Myth; but transferring this idea and turning it into a learning tool to get at traumas and seeing one’s pain as a possible gift is a huge leap in logic. And embracing one’s emotional past to get a better understanding of one’s life and how to live it more fully can seem a daunting task or a hill too steep to climb.

      I’ve been spending time lately getting reacquainted with some of my childhood stories that had powerful themes connected to my early background running through them. You know the ones’ that bring a lump to your throat; and I was reminded that when we share our stories we “witness”. Michael Meade talked about this in one of his lectures a while back, and he mentioned catharsis and sharing our humanity in a vulnerable way with others can often lead not only to deep insights but healing of wounds as well. And your pdf has some very valuable tools for getting at that.

      There often is a misconception that “following your bliss” is a kind of happy excursion into the self-help book sections in local bookstores where you find some kind of hobby and you are on your way to your personal adventure. Or if you follow a specific set of steps in a given order you are having an experience that everyone else is supposed to have that you keep hearing about. And when you stumble across some trickster god while you are fumbling around trying to figure out what you are doing the thing to do is to rid yourself of the problem he represents “instead” of going deeper to where the gold may be hidden within your own life. This “lefthand path” hero stuff is not for the faint of heart as is often shown in the motifs you use; and lots of confusion, pain , and emotional suffering may accompany you on your “Quest” to find and live your story. So I hope that what I’m asking is not too much to include into one response. Again, I am thrilled you’re here and so looking forward to whatever you feel like sharing.


      Since it’s only been a few hours when I posted the above, I want to add a few things to help clarify some of the themes of what I was attempting to ask. One, my second paragraph was to add a bit of humor to my tone, but humor can be tricky and because of possible misinterpretation can be misunderstood, and my objective was portray how someone not familiar to Campbell might not understand some of the themes and terminology often used through working with him as a guide to one’s inner world.

      “Sacred Space” would be another theme where the inner world of the individual can be explored in a multitude of ways and that Joseph felt was extremely import in creating an inner life. This of course leads to other Jungian dimensions people might not understand at first and leads me to the term “temenos” which could be understood as the “sacred field” often created between individuals sharing deep personal secrets not to be disclosed to the outside world for fear of criticism and is also absolutely vital in therapy or analysis where the inner voices from one’s past may be allowed to speak and be recognized; and especially valuable in getting at emotional problems someone may be having and defense mechanisms are preventing this from happening.

      Lastly, and I think very relevant to today’s male identity is the “little boy”; that inner child that has been locked up and has become a dragon and shamed if recognized in public. Complexes and their relationship to archetypes as opposed to archetypal images are important in understanding how these inner mechanisms are operating within us; and Joseph was a master storytelling mechanic at getting under the hood and helping people to see what myths were saying and how one’s personal myth, (if understood properly), can become a vehicle for making the unconscious conscious and help us to better live our lives with meaning and purpose. (A little convoluted in my description, but a necessary addition for what I was attempting to explain in the above.)

      Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox wrote: “Your Mythic Journey” shortly after Joseph died; and knew Joseph personally. Keen was asked by Joseph to help him with his Esalen workshops for years until he passed; and this book is a great outline that connects beautifully with your pdf. Keen also was one of the people who helped establish the: “Men’s Movement” back in the 1990’s; and along with Robert Bly; another friend of Joseph’s, became one of it’s chief mentors for helping men understand a lot of the long unrecognized themes in man’s inner world. Keen’s: “Fire in the Belly”; and Bly’s: “Iron John” are recognized as significant contributions to this legacy.

      Again, it’s so great to have you here and I’m so looking forward to your reply.  Namaste


      Hi James,

      Lots of wonderful questions and ideas here. I haven’t had a chance to digest your addendum:)  but will respond to your initial post now. Some thoughts beginning with the significance of metaphor….

      Metaphors are more than figures of speech. They are a cornerstone of thought and a vocabulary of meaning. As Jung observed, people think and learn through analogy, that is, we understand one thing by comparing it to something else. A metaphor is a type of analogy but in this case, the comparison goes beyond similarities and into new webs of association. This is the poetic quality of metaphor and its power as a holder of evolving, multiple meanings. A metaphor can bridge the knowable and the unknown, “God” being one example.

      Metaphors catalyze imagination. Imagination is a form of thought.

      As a symbolic language, myths are comprised of metaphors. You can locate yourself in a story even if the literal details don’t apply (the story is about a princess and I am not a princess) by seeing through the metaphor (if I am the princess, how am I like the princess, have I ever acted like the princess, could I be the princess, how am I not the princess, etc. and what does this mean?).

      Approaching myths this way is useful because they open what is otherwise factual, literal, to a wider web of meaning and to the conscious imagination. This change in context alone can alter the experience and lend it value. It can generate questions that lead to insight. It can also deepen your understanding of what is at work and provide options, and as Joseph Campbell says, you realize that you’re not alone. The existence of a story in which you can locate your experience tells you that others have gone through something similar before.

      When you see events in your life metaphorically, you discover their mythic dimension. The mythic is always present although few of us consistently look for it. I understand personal myth as a process of discovery. You find out what is at work. How you respond to what you find is a creative process, but I don’t think deciding to craft a personal myth for yourself is fruitful unless you are willing to be guided by what is already present, even if it leads to places that you don’t want to go.

      Dreams and major epiphanies are important and yet, the mythic shows up in everywhere. For example, in the mythic pattern readings that I offer, a person’s word choice and mode of thought expresses as much as the factual content of the autobiography. Seeing through or thinking with a story, like the little exercise of “The Frog King” in my essay, can be very revealing. What strikes you about a story, especially the questions that arise, can lead you into the mythic dimension if you pursue them.

      I’m so glad that you found “Blisters on the way to Bliss” useful. Thank you for telling me. I’m posting the link to download the pdf here in case others are inspired to check it out.
      warmly, Catherine


        Hi, Catherine — Lovely to read this MythBlast and meet The Frog King again, enriched by your insights and helpful queries for the reader.  There is one bit in your commentary that I cannot quite wrap my elderly head around, so I hope you can clarify it for me in simple terms. ‘Tis a critical part of your explanation’s point, and yet I can’t quite grasp it …  this sentence, from the snippet below: “The girl that refuses to act with decisive, even violent authority slides down the wall with him and there’s no taking it back.”

        Hoping for a few words to nudge my comprehension.

        … As for the transformation, I think it’s the splat.

        The splat. The moment that the princess acts in spontaneous accord with her nature, as Campbell would say. That moment of power. The splat reveals the true nature of the frog and the princess, two interlocked aspects of her psyche. The girl that refuses to act with decisive, even violent authority slides down the wall with him and there’s no taking it back. The subsequent marriage would be confirmation of a lasting transformation.

        Thanks much!

        Merrikate (Catharine!)


          Catherine. Thank you so much for such a wonderful overview that reveals much of what I asked. I should clarify one thing that you thoughtfully pointed out I need to clear up which is “crafting or designing one’s personal myth”. Yes, I probably should have used the word: “discover or reveal” what lies hidden instead. As Joseph on many occasions stated in a number of different ways there is something that drives us and in following the “path that is no path” when looking back over our life we begin to see or understand; (at least to some degree), what this thing is. You can call it a pattern or see it through a Jungian lens as The Self, or the Campbell lens as your personal myth; that thing that is unique in you that becomes your: “task of tasks” to pursue; but yes, as you pointed out it is not something you can craft or design in that sense; it’s already there but many of us don’t know what drives us; (as in the Jungian crisis); and our insides initiate a “Call” that something is missing and we need to go on an adventure or journey/quest to bring it to realization. You could say it’s in our psyche’s DNA but I don’t think that quite defines it because something may happen along the way of your discovery path that causes you to change direction. A Trickster God can do this because that’s his or her job to keep pushing you into your own dark tunnel or cave to reclaim or assimilate or in some way help you by shaking everything up you thought you knew and you are reborn in some way.

          In chapters: 4, 5, & 6 of “Pathways to Bliss” Joseph addresses this aspect and it’s many dimensions in a number of ways; but he also reveals this thing that is in you is unique to you alone. Now we can talk about journals and events that happen in our lives that can give us clues; but in the end that is our task as he keeps reminding us; which is to find out what it is; to know it and live it; (in the larger sense); and this is the lefthand path he is talking about to my way of thinking. In other words it’s not something from out there but in you. And whether it comes by crisis or inspiration or any number of things you have two choices if you are paying attention; you can stay in the village compound of the right hand path; (nothing wrong with that); or you can listen to what your insides are telling you and figure out what to do from there. This seems to be what Joseph is saying from what I can tell. I’m certainly no authority on Joseph’s work; but these are the particular themes that keep informing me over the course of my life. But my path is not anyone else’s; and I think this is very important because everyone’s path is different.

          I loved the way you have articulated these things, (and I especially appreciate the link to your pdf); because I think those who check it out will find a wealth of helpful information. And I’m really looking forward to the second part of your response because I think “men” in particular are really struggling right now. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful reply.


          Hi Merrikate,


          what I mean– and I was trying to put this a bit poetically!– is that the splat that transformed the frog into a prince, also transformed the princess. Before the splat, she was a princess who did what her dad told her to do and she ran away from the frog. After the splat, she was a princess who decided her course of action for herself, and acted wholeheartedly.

          Sometimes we act in a way that reveals a capacity in us, that we didn’t know was there. This is a transformative experience. One example is the “ordinary” person who spontaneously rushes into a burning building or dives into the water to save someone. Typically, such a person had no idea that he/she could respond in this way and the revelation is very powerful.

          Hope this helps! Thanks for asking.


          Hi James,

          I’m not clear on what you’re asking or want me to specifically address? You seem to have a good grasp on the ideas that you’ve shared. What is it about the current struggle that “men” are facing, that you’d like me to consider?

          warmly, Catherine


          Raised on the Disney version (the gentle kiss that transforms the frog into a prince), I read the tale in the original language in college for my German literature class – major epiphany! That violent burst completely changed the experience (and vastly improved the impact of the story) for me.

          I am curious, Catherine – that golden ball which the princess treasured so much fades from the tale once the frog returns it. I don’t want to read to much into this, but I am intrigued. Relating that to my experience (because, of course, the universe revolves around me), I notice the desire that motivates me to get off the couch and out the door (the Call?) often seems unrelated to the adventure that follows.

          Have you any thoughts on what happens to that golden ball?


            Thanks, Catherine — crystal-clear to me now! For my recent birthday, I gave myself a first edition of Maurice Sendak and Lore Segal’s 2-vol The Juniper Tree, and other tales from Grimm, published in my firstborn’s birth-year.  (I am a huge fan of Sendak’s art.) Here’s the illustration for ‘The Frog King’ —



              Thank you so much for looking my addendum over first before posting because I now have a chance to clarify a bit what I’m attempting to address. I don’t want to wander too far off topic but there are a number of male issues that have now within “modern times” become: (at least in my view); very difficult in the maturation of male identity that simply don’t function as effectively as they once did because the models don’t work as well; (and sometimes even against each other); as models.

              There is a running popularity pole about the best father role model that people hold as the gold standard to emulate, and for years “Atticus Finch” via Gregory Peck in: “To Kill a Mockingbird”; is almost always at the top of the list; not some rough and tumble figure whose character traits are that of taking out bad guys by beating them up; and this movie in fact depicts seeing through a very different kind of lens of what being a grownup actually represents.

              In the “Power of Myth” Joseph addresses this problem by explaining you can see what is happening by the news reports of youth crime and violence being committed by young males who haven’t been socialized properly because the myths are no longer serving this need; Moyers asked: “Do we need a new myth?” And Joseph’s answer was, it’s probably not going to come in the near future because things are changing too fast for anything to constellate. Modern advances in technology and the borders which once separated countries and cultures that contain all the old religions and myths are out of date for the times which we are living in and are dissolving and no longer serve the proper functions in a realistic sense that they were designed for; (namely that of bringing or nurturing an individual through the various life stages from birth to death to live a civilized and successful life). So, we are thrown back on ourselves and now left to our own devices. We must find our own way and construct or cut our way through the dark forest and find our own path forward. We don’t know what we are doing; and that is part of our dilemma and part of the mission or process. We can no longer rely on social roles and mythic structures that no longer fit the needs for which they were originally intended. We are lost and groping which leads me back to the topic of the modern male psyche.

              In a separate piece, which was an interview Joseph gave for Parabola magazine in 1975 which I can’t quote because of copywrite issues); he called the world we now live in an: “airport society”; because you can fly anywhere in the world in practically a day; and that cultures are now spread out all over the place and the only way to make the myths work is to use them metaphorically. So when someone says myth is a lie; some people think they are saying myths are not real. And the idea of having a personal myth instead of a “personal God” is blasphemy.

              Now I don’t want to try and oversimplify this; but we are not living in a time when you had to go out and kill your food to eat something; you go to the grocery store or some fast-food place to get it. But male behavior role models have not quite made the entire historical or societal jump so we have all kinds of laws, police, and military to enforce them to make sure everyone behaves properly. And you could use the term: “Chivalry” as a code of conduct when talking about manners and being a “Knight in Shinning Armour”; but Don Quixote addressed that concern if used as a model within a modern context.  In other words, Jung was very depressed when he considered man’s fate looking ahead because we haven’t learned how to control man’s inner animal instincts. And I think what we are actually talking about is the landscape has changed so drastically males and boys have been left to devices that not only don’t work but are in many cases detrimental for the roles they now must reinterpret.

              He said: “The world hangs on a thread”; and he felt the “Shadow”, unless integrated properly, left us too vulnerable to our animal nature. Now we could get into all the myths, legends, and fairy tales that address male maturation but we are not really; (at least as far as I can see); addressing the young male’s problem of understanding their softer side in a “modern” context. The tenderness, kindness, compassionate and thinking side; as opposed to the dominate animal side; (Yes, the mixtures of functions, typologies, and attitudes Jung describes). In other words in simpler language – man’s ability to control his emotions – is just not being addressed the way it needs to be for a society to function properly as well as the child’s ability to understand their inner landscape in a way that will properly bring them to fulfilment as an adult.

              I mean if you look at the number of displaced youth; which by now is staggering compared to what it use to be); disaffected teens, broken homes; not to mention human trafficking that is taking place because of their vulnerability; and especially the increasing overdoses from drugs like fentanyl and other addicting opioids I just don’t see the social will and understanding that needs to happen. We can blame Covid; but this was taking place long before that became a concern. No, I think this is a social disconnect, and males are having a real problem finding their feet. (And no, I don’t think all of this is just a male concern either); but that’s what I’m attempting to grapple with the specific question I raised; which yes; is gender related because we are addressing the specific social role they serve; especially later as fathers.

              Now we could get into charts and studies about all manner of social dysfunctions like divorce, child abuse, domestic violence, (much less that of an emotional crisis). But I think there are a number avenues this could be looked at where male dysfunction can be traced to the “aloneness” that so many males find themselves in; and societies codes of social conduct just don’t quite meet the mark. If for example I say Ernest Hemingway and his love of Spanish culture where the word “Macho” or (much man) would apply you have a stereotypical influence informed by an archetype; the soldier, the fighter, the defender, the tough guy, and this list could get quite long. A lot of subsets would fit here as well. But what I’m attempting to establish is the inner child that is so often connected to the wounded healer and the wounded that is seeking help to unlock their inner prison is, (imho), directly connected to this development of an individual and a desire to understand some of these things that are going on inside themselves.

              And so we go to an analyst or therapist or a clergyman or a best friend to help us figure out what’s going on inside our inner world. So let’s think about shame or guilt for instance, and complexes, archetypes, symbols, patterns of behavior, emotions, dreams; but what about all the males who have no idea what that is and feel cut off and alone with no way to understand what going on inside them. Usually a lot of the time what is prescribed as treatment simply does not work because no connection is established or made to this inner dynamic and society is really not set up to deal with it anyway because of funding issues or the people involved are using the DSM-5 manual and are misdiagnosed and this list could on.

              Now I’m not saying mental health treatment is a sham; not at all. But what I am saying is much of society doesn’t really know how to deal with the modern male psyche in a way that’s going to work in a realistic way. Politics as well as unrealistic social expectations I think are part of the problem. But if you say to someone they have a mental health problem more than likely you are going to get a somewhat cautious if not negative response. Why? Because society is just now getting to the point where it’s acceptable to admit it. Say something like that to a male and often an immediate defense mechanism is triggered because of persona concerns.

              I’ve been reading lately there seems to be a rising awareness of males; especially young males feeling of alienation from society, and the aloneness that has become an increasing problem. Youth gangs are definitely on the rise because they provide a sense of family or connection they have not been able to get at home or whatever serves as that kind of relationship where they feel needed and accepted instead of ridiculed or rejected because they don’t fit in and are made to feel different than the others. You could say that is a herd mentality; but the lack of a strong sense of self I think in this case works better because even though it may be social this is not politics.

              Boys, young males, and men are struggling because society has not given them something to help them make this identity leap or transition into a world where someone like Putin can put his finger on a nuclear device and hold the world hostage or that Donald Trump can stir the pot of racism and pitch one side of the political divide against another for his own purposes. Authoritarianism is back in big way; and the human race is now confronting more than just a virus that can mutate at will; it’s got a climate crisis coming down the road to join the party.

              I hope you’ll forgive this somewhat jumbled attempt to articulate my query about the struggle that I feel many men are facing. I don’t see this issue through the same timeless lens that normally would fit this profile anymore than women would frame gender inequality either. And “the world is mess” scenario just doesn’t quite seem to work either. It is in my mind a complete and separate divide that has to do with a cultural inability to understand what’s happening to young boys, young males, and many mature and older men as well. They are held prisoner in a stereotypical pattern that is almost impossible for them to break out of without help. To me this is not just an emotional awareness concern. It is psychological in nature without a doubt; but the social prisons with behavior patterns that keep them there are not being addressed but ignored as if to say: “it’s always been this way”; and I just don’t think that is going work any longer given Jung’s fears.

              Thank you for lending your ear. I hope this humble description makes sense.


                Catherine. I want to add a quick addendum concerning my reference to Don Quixote which may have seemed somewhat difficult to understand relating to why I used Chivalry as a behavioral model in Arthurian context and brought up the Cervantes character of this crazy old man imitating a knight out to restore a lost age.

                Below is a piece of content I used in a separate MythBlast conversation in which I quoted Joseph Campbell’s thoughts from a question Bill Moyers asked in the: “Power of Myth”.


                “I wanted to briefly bring up Don Quixote because there is an insightful thing Joseph mentions in his conversation with Bill Moyers in “The Power of Myth” that I think applies not only to this mythic realm they are discussing; (for instance knights, chivalry, and psychosis); but how we as individuals might think about play as it relates to this “Wasteland” we all have to deal with in the modern world; especially now more than ever.

                On page 129 they are discussing the hero’s call and how it evokes one’s character, and that actually the adventure is a manifestation of one’s character because the quest is something that person is ready for and it’s how they respond to it that affects and helps to determine its’ possible outcome. Now we get into the challenge of living within a system, because everyone has to figure out how to meet and assimilate this challenge to create a life for themselves. This is important because as he said people have stopped listening to themselves- and herein lies the risk of the call of the left-hand path of the hero instead of staying warm and cozy in the village compound of the right-hand path. They may risk a mental crackup because the heart is not always interested in just following the herd and doing what one is told. People are not herd animals or slaves to social ideals unless they choose to be so. Something tells them inside this is all wrong; but maybe they have responsibilities that cannot be ignored; and the below is not about finding a hobby because that is not what is working on them from inside themselves.”

                I don’t want to quote the whole conversation; just a few paragraphs should give you a general idea of what he is talking about. On page 130 Moyers asks:

                “So perhaps the hero lurks in each one of us when we don’t know it?

                Campbell: “Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on. That’s why it is good to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower. “Lead us not into temptation.”

                “Oretga y Gasset talks about the environment and the hero in his “Meditations on Don Quixote”. Don Quixote was the last hero of the Middle Ages. He rode out to encounter giants, but instead of giants, his environment produced windmills. Ortega points out that this story takes place about the time that a mechanistic interpretation of the world came in, so that the environment is no longer spiritually responsive to the hero. The hero of today is running up against a hard world that is in no way responsive to his spiritual need.”

                Moyers: “A windmill?”

                “Yes, but Quixote saved the adventure for himself by inventing a magician who had just transformed the giants he had gone forth to encounter into windmills. You can do that too, if you have a poetic imagination. Earlier, though, it was not a mechanistic world in which the hero moved but a world alive and responsive to his spiritual readiness. Now it has become to such an extent a sheerly mechanistic world, as interpreted through our physical senses, Marxist sociology, and behavioristic psychology, that we’re nothing but a predictable pattern of wires responding to stimuli. This nineteenth-century interpretation has squeezed the freedom of the human will out of modern life.”

                Moyers: “In the political sense, is there a danger that these myths of the heroes teach us to look at the deeds of others as if we were in an amphitheater or coliseum or a movie, watching others perform great deeds while consoling ourselves to impotence?”

                Campbell: “I think this is something that has overtaken us only recently in this culture. The one who watches athletic games instead pf participating in athletics is involved in surrogate achievement. But when you think about what people are actually undergoing in our civilization, you realize it’s a very grim thing to be a modern human being. The drudgery of the lives of most of the people who have to support families—well it’s a life-extinguishing affair.”





                Since you mentioned Rilke…


                Lenoir Marie Rilke

                How should we be able to forget those myths,
                the myths at the beginnings of all peoples,
                the myths about dragons, who at the     last moment turn into princesses?

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

                Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest sense something helpless, that wants help from us.

                So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen,

                if a restiveness like light and cloud shadow passes over your hands and over all you do.

                You must think that something is happening with you,

                that life has not forgotten you,

                that it holds you in its hands.

                It will not let you fall.

                Wish I could remember the translator.

                But this was the translation as recited by Ron Pearlman as “Vincent,” on CBS’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
                There was an audio cassette of several of his other recitations on B&B.

                And this was one of those so maybe the Rilke translator was listed there.

                Since you were talking about transformations 🙂

                Enjoyed your essay! Very thought provoking!


                Hi Stephen,

                good question!

                If we follow the action of the story, the golden ball becomes/is replaced by the frog. At the outset, the princess is tossing her golden ball. Later, she is throwing a frog at the wall!  Which makes you wonder about the nature of the golden ball.

                In Jungian terms, the golden ball symbolizes the archetypal Self. Experienced in a moment, the Self appears as some “thing,” an image of realized wholeness. And yet the Self is an active dynamic in the psyche, a catalyst for change in the conscious personality. The Self is the call, the vehicle, and the outcome.

                In the story, the golden ball falls into the well “one day.”(the call) The frog appears and the attention/energy of the princess shifts from the ball to the frog. (vehicle) She destroys the frog (old image/conscious form of the ball). The frog is transformed into a prince whom she marries, ie the conscious personality is transformed through the emergence of capacities/aspects of self that were previously unknown.

                My articulation of this is clumsy but hopefully you sense my meaning. And it may shed some light on the experience that you describe, of  the difference between what initially motivates us and the adventure that unfolds.

                As I understand it, the Self is a great mystery, a complex in the unconscious that is known by degrees as it presents itself to conscious awareness. When we respond to it, we do so from the perspective of what can be known by us at the time. There is a promise or challenge that compels us, that hints at something larger, and we follow it. But we don’t know the real purpose. And we can’t.

                I think it was Jung who said, “I” happen to myself. That is, the Self makes us, and we trace the outline of the process in retrospect.

                Thanks again for such a great question!


                Wonderful illustration! The look on the princess’s face is priceless:).

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