Forum Replies Created
May 16, 2022 at 4:49 pm in reply to: The Sacredness of Rituals,” by Kristina Dryža” #74835
I also use breath as a part of my meditation ritual. It is a “way station” on the journey to “no thought.” I find it very hard to achieve the blank mind that is aware of nothing, not even breathing. I believe that it is in that no thought zone the we can be open to realizing our oneness with God and thus all creation. I don’t know if or when this will happen, but I will “stay with the program” (ritual).
RichardMay 16, 2022 at 3:56 pm in reply to: The Sacredness of Rituals,” by Kristina Dryža” #74837
Not long after Trump was elected I came to the conclusion that the main distinction between conservative and liberal boiled down to the apparent fact that the right privileges individual liberty and the left privileges the common good, albeit there are many nuances. Having concluded this, I was distressed that I was engaging in such a dual thinking modality. Campbell was quite emphatic about this phenomenon in several places in The Power of Myth where he spoke on the “pairs of opposites”. Individualism and common good should not be seen as either/or.
In an effort to see this in a non-dual way I came up with an analogy using the act of breathing. Breathing is one thing, but it is comprised of dual actions: inhale and exhale (which are not in opposition). We cannot do only one and survive. The inhale can be seen as the service of self, and the exhale as giving back to the community. Similar to the hero’s journey, s/he goes forth (individually) and returns with a boon for the community.
Another duality I have trouble resolving is history/time. Most indigenous and nature religions see time as circular (cyclical). The Judeo-Christian traditions see it as linear (having a telos). I tend to view it like a slinky pulled apart. It is both circular and linear.
A fellow pilgrim.November 30, 2020 at 4:05 pm in reply to: The Hour Yields, with Mythologist Joanna Gardner, Ph.D. #73840
Dr. Gardner says: “ In The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell reminds us that the notion of a “still point” doesn’t exist in the physical universe (3). In the field of time and space, there is no cessation of energy, nor any literal, irreducible point. And yet, the cosmos has contrived to create creatures who experience stillness and pointness. The still point is a subjective event, not an objective reality.”
I think the creatures she refers to as being created by the cosmos may have found it necessary to create stillness as an antidote to movement. The earth rotates on its axis at 1000 mph; and it is simultaneously revolving around the sun at 107 km/hour. Our whole solar system, our sun with the whirling earth in tow, is orbiting the center of the Milky Way travelling at 240 km/sec. The galaxy is about 100 light years across and we make it around once every 230 million years. We’re now at a position in the galaxy called the Age of Aquarius. There are over 200 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy and it is just one of over 100 billion galaxies. The Milky Way and about 1500 other galaxies are part of what is known as “the local group.” And the entire galaxy is currently moving, riding on space as space itself expands outward at 590 km/sec – and it is accelerating.
But where is this motion going? Does it have a telos? The myths are constructed around a moving out and a return that gives purpose and accomplishment. But our cosmic motion does not seem to have a “come back to,” so our subjective stillness may be an effort to stop this rapid rush to who knows where. Since time is defined as “the measure of matter in motion” we may in fact be trying by imagining stillness to make time stand still – which is one way of describing eternity: a dimension outside of time. Our subjective stillness is a way to experience eternity.
Richard SumpterAugust 18, 2020 at 1:53 am in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73943
I am totally familiar with the feelings about the scorching heat of summer. I’ve lived in Kansas all of my life except for 8 years in Denver. I have lost my fair share of lawns and know the feeling of wondering if it would ever rain again. The sky was more bright white than blue. In times like those the sun seems to drain the life from you rather than infuse it. Darkness is a respite, sort of. And in the morning when you wake at dawn, sheets wet with sweat, it is already 85 degrees. It really made me appreciate the crisp cool days of October when the sky was so blue it hurt your eyes.
The sun is indeed a mixed blessing. How did the Egyptians make Ra a deity?August 16, 2020 at 4:15 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73945
On this “Sun”day my meditation led me to reflections about the sun as both reality and a metaphor. The reality it is this: the sun is about 5 billion years old and will last about another 4 billion years. It is mostly hydrogen. It is our source of energy, and thus life. In a single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in a year.
Shel Silverstein once wrote a book called “The Giving Tree” which depicted a tree as a metaphor for giving of self for others. Today I thought of the sun in the same metaphorical way. I know there are billions of suns, but only our sun directly gives itself for us. Every second it consumes (burns) 5 million tons of its hydrogen fuel to give us energy in the form of light. The sun’s hydrogen is converted into useful energy which in turn becomes the fuel for our planetary life. It is an outpouring of generosity rivaled only by the religious person’s concept of God, the difference being that the sun will eventually “die.”
Another reflection relates to our discussion board on “the air we breathe.” A lot of the discussion has been about the air, as both reality and metaphor. Today I would like to think about the breath, the act of breathing. Like much of reality, we view it through a lens which sees duality. Though breathing is one thing, we view it as having two components: inhaling and exhaling. In order to live you must do both. This can be an analogy that helps me to think about the concept of the individual and the community. Just as breathing requires inhaling and exhaling, a functioning and flourishing society requires the interaction of the individual and the community. The individual can be seen as the act of inhaling; the community is the exhale. Taking in is for the benefit of the individual; the giving back is for the benefit of the community. Just as you cannot only inhale, you cannot privilege self over other; likewise, you cannot be a flourishing member of the community if you do not attend to the needs of self.
As individuals, we cannot ignore our duties to the community. It would be like inhaling and holding our breath. And that would cause the demise of “the individual,” not the community.August 2, 2020 at 6:30 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73947
In quoting from John’s Gospel you have touched on one off my favorite books. (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.) I think scholars have suggested that he is emulating Genesis: (In the beginning God created the heavens nd the earth. The earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.”
The Latin for Spiritus is: breath, breathing, air, soul, life. In some translations “formless void” is translated as chaos, and the breath of God brings order. Interesting that in Greek the opposite of chaos is cosmos. God’s next act is to banish the darkness by creating light. Another interesting point is that in John, what we translate as “word” in Greek is telos which means purpose or end. So we could read that “In the beginning was the end (purpose). This would indicate a divine plan of sorts.
Lots to think about here.
RichardAugust 2, 2020 at 1:28 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73949
Thanks for your gentle remonstration regarding politics. I must admit I hadn’t read the guidelines. Your Campbell quote regarding national and tribal consciousness seems a bit premature – given the resurgence of nationalism. I attribute it to the predatory capitalism as practiced on a global scale. Business has developed a global view resulting in a form of industrial colonialism. But that has driven many citizens deep into nationalism. Until we come to grips with the vast global (and national) economic inequality I don’t have much hope for his vision.
You say, “I tend to agree with Campbell when he tells Emilios Bouratinos that he is “pessimistic with respect to the present or the day after tomorrow, but optimistic with respect to, let’s say, fifty-odd years from now.”
Isn’t the present day about 50 years from the time of the quote? I wish I wasn’t so pessimistic today also.
RichardJuly 30, 2020 at 1:11 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73951
Thanks for your comments on my conundrum regarding the one and the many. I really appreciate your free-association. Your comments to Johanna regarding Jung and death many contain a partial answer. I don’t recall who sad it, but a quote that helps is: “In birth I became a part of the many; in death I join the one.” While still alive, the means of dispelling the illusion of multiplicity and seeing all as one is at best transitory. Any approach requires a contemplative mysticism which engages the soul much more than the mind. I suspect that even the mystic who achieves a sense of union may be also dealing with an illusion – just a more satisfactory one.
The other day news channels were reminding us that there are only 100 days left until the election (THANK GOD). That fact got me to thinking about the concept of time. Is it linear or cyclical? Those raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition mostly treat it as linear – with a beginning and an end. The Book of Genesis starts with the words “In the beginning…” and we frequently hear the phrase “the end of time.” I believe the Book of Revelation speaks of “the end of days.” Thus, it would seem that our religious context treats time as linear. Other belief systems – Native Americans for example – see it as cyclical, based on recurring natural events; the phases of the moon, the seasons of the year, the equinoxes and solstices. I’m not sure if they think of time as being “timeless” – having no end.
Even though the Christian tradition holds that time is linear and will eventually end, it observes the cyclical idea as well. I visualize it like a slinky – a circular shape stretched out over a linear plane. It goes from beginning to end but with repeating cycles, largely based on nature. Before the invention of the digital watch, our time-telling devices were indeed circular, marking the recurring hours of the day (I’m an analog person trapped in a digital world) . And time and religious celebrations are based on recurring natural events. While Christmas is anchored to December 25, it was originally tied to the winter solstice; and Easter is a movable feast, being calculated each year based on the first full moon of the Spring equinox. So, our concepts of time and its measurement is a mix of both linear and cyclical.
But that leads to the question “Is there time after time?” Christians talk about “eternity.” But we almost always think and speak about eternity as if it were a very, very long time. But eternity has nothing to do with time. Time is defined as the measure of matter in motion. If God is pure spirit – non-material, then eternity is a totally other dimension that transcends time. Within the time dimension Einstein speaks of the space-time continuum. We measure space in three dimensions: width, length and breadth. But Einstein postulates time as a fourth dimension. Eternity exists outside of time and space. These are categories of thought which we have created in an effort to understand reality. They are human constructs.
The same is true of the concept we call God. The word God stands for an idea that transcends reality. All of the attributes we ascribe to God are human constructs we have devised to speak about what is fundamentally unspeakable and beyond understanding. St. Augustine said, and I paraphrase, “If you think that you understand God, then it’s not him.”
So as you opined earlier, death may be the doorway to understanding.
I apologize for monopolizing so much “time and space” on this platform.July 30, 2020 at 12:46 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73952
I hope you don’t mind if I piggy-back on your comments to Johanna, particularly the second section regarding masks. I have seen in the news several commentaries on how the pandemic has been politicized. The most visible sign of this has become wearing or not wearing a mask. TV news outlets have aired numerous accounts of people who refuse to wear a mask. I have heard them say things like, “This is America. They can’t make me wear a mask,” or “It’s a free country. Wear one if you want but don’t force it on me.” People who do wear masks have tried to reason with or respond to non-wearers with a fairly consistent message: “It’s not just about you. Not observing the rules can endanger others.” Those who refuse to follow the rules are often self-identified Trump followers, and/or conservatives. The others are largely liberals.
Over a year ago I wrote a lengthy essay trying to determine the major principles that differentiated liberals from conservatives.
Essentially, I concluded that the fundamental difference is that conservatives privileged individual freedom over the common good, a case of self vs other. Liberals privileged the community over the individual and made the common good the higher priority. The mask wearing issue is a clear illustration of my contention. It is further borne out by the rules promulgated by Republican governors compared to those mandated by Democratic governors. (These thoughts were what gave rise to my earlier post regarding integrating the hero individual with the community to which he returns.)
Pundits in the TV news described the unwillingness to require masks as an example of how Trump followers deny science. I think they are actually denying that they have any responsibility toward the common good when it impinges on their own personal freedom; and denying the science behind the pandemic is a necessary step to permit them to privilege individual freedom over communal good.
Another of the ways our current identity politics is described is by the use of the word “tribal.” This use gives the word a negative connotation. That’s the opposite of its prehistoric usage, but more in line with Biblical usage. In prehistoric times tribal living was how homo sapiens survived. Humans existed as hunter/gatherers in small nomadic tribes of about 25 to 40 people for nearly a million years (Swimme). It was a very successful model. They were bonded together by both kinship and necessity. To be outside of a tribe was practically a death sentence. That’s why banishment was such a severe penalty.
It wasn’t until humans discovered agriculture about 10.000 years ago that many hunter/gatherer tribes abandoned the nomadic lifestyle and settled in the fertile river deltas around the world. When walled cities were developed and division of labor came about, tribal bonds were less necessary and were frequently replaced by loyalty to the city because it was the city that provided protection.
In the Book of Genesis in about 1200 BCE we read about the 12 Tribes of Israel. Each traced its lineage to one of the 12 sons of Jacob. After leaving Egypt, eleven of the twelve were given specific territories and so the tribe’s bonds were based on kinship and geography. The tribe of Levi was given the priestly role of tending to the Temple in Jerusalem. As written in the Book of Exodus, in order to bind the 12 tribes and establish the Israelites as God’s chosen people, Moses was given a covenant from Yahweh. Part of that trans-tribal covenant included rules of behavior.
While Christianity later adopted these tribal rules and called them The Ten Commandments, they were originally Israel specific. The covenant rules only applied to the 12 Tribes. That’s why we find no contradiction in Exodus with Yahweh saying “Thou shalt not kill,” and in Leviticus Yahweh calls on the Israelites to annihilate other competing tribes. The covenant means “thou shalt not kill another fellow tribal member (Israelite). The rules were inter-tribal, not universal. To make this clear, they used circumcision as a sign of the covenant (The original litmus test?).
So far Republicans and Democrats have not gone this far. But I’m not going to bet against it.July 19, 2020 at 8:33 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73962
Thanks for the expansive response. I really appreciate the reminder about metaphor. It’s one of my favorite tools.
I would disagree though, that being/non-being is a duality. Non-being is nothing so it can’t strictly be considered a “thing” which stands as an antipode to being. All there is is being (IMOH).
RichardJuly 19, 2020 at 3:12 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73964
Thanks to jamesn for the kind words. Maybe some of you can help me sort out some thoughts.
As you may have gathered from my earlier posts, I have been doing a lot of thinking and a little writing on the concepts of individualism (particularly “rugged individualism” as exhibited in America) and communalism (not to be confused with communism or socialism). Since joining this forum, I have been trying to integrate my thinking on these concepts with some of the theories Campbell espouses.
There are two of his ideas that keep forcing their way into my consciousness. The first is his theory of the monomyth as portrayed in the Hero’s Journey. A truncated version has the individual leaving the realm of the known to pursue a quest into the unfamiliar and often dangerous realm. The circular journey is completed, and the status of hero is achieved when the individual, having overcome the challenges, returns to the community with a boon of some kind. In other words, while becoming a hero may require individual achievements, heroism isn’t fully conferred until the individual returns to the community. Campbell describes the hero (the individual) as someone who has given him/herself to something greater than self (the community). This means living not in pursuit of what are perceived as individual needs but living primarily in terms of the community. In that way, both the individual and the community benefit.
While the Hero’s Journey can align with my views on individual vs. community, and I can integrate my thinking on it, it raises another problem that Campbell addresses. I’m not sure there is a specific name for it in his lexicon, but it relates to the idea of duality, of positives and negatives. In Moyers’ POM video he speaks to this while showing a picture of a Buddha in a cave in India. He points out that the Buddha is looking straight ahead, but there are faces on either side looking to left and right. He refers here to “the pairs of opposites,” and reflects on how we use this categorization to organize and understand what we perceive as reality. We create the illusion of duality, but the reality is that all being is one. Being is the single fundamental reality. From this we derive the principle of contradiction: “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time in the same respect.” All epistemology is based on this.
Thus, while I use the Hero’s Journey to explain individual and community, I must realize that I am using dual thinking which creates the illusion of two somewhat opposite things while the reality is that they are one. This tendency to reductionism – reducing a thing to its composite parts – is a product of science and the enlightenment. Our understanding is enhanced by this “analysis” (the word in Greek means to break apart), but we lose something because of the difficulty of reuniting the parts back into the whole.
Campbell raises another difficult concept in eschewing dual thinking. He points out that the pairs of opposites are categories of thought devised by the human mind. This really get difficult to wrap your mind around when he goes on to say that good and evil are ethical categories we have created. They do not exist in the mind of God, where all things are one. He is in synch with the Buddha when he admonishes us not to impose the labels. We do not have to say that a thing is good or bad. It just “is.”
I’m getting a headache so I will end for now. Thanks to those who could stay with me this far. I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.July 17, 2020 at 8:26 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73966
Maybe this should be a different topic, but this article was in my Alumni Bulletin and seems relevant for this group. It is Maria Tatar’s collected versions of the tale Snow White from around the world and explains how they give us a way to think about what we prefer not to.
The tale of Snow White and what the various versions mean to us
Pilgrim 1July 17, 2020 at 5:35 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73970
Your commentary on masks is relevant to my personal journal entry today. I post it here.
I have seen in the news several commentaries on how the pandemic has been politicized. The most visible sign of this has become wearing or not wearing a mask. TV news outlets have aired numerous accounts of people who refuse to wear a mask. I have heard them say things like, “This is America. They can’t make me wear a mask,” or “It’s a free country. Wear one if you want but don’t force it on me.” People who do wear masks have tried to reason with or respond to non-wearers with a fairly consistent message: “It’s not just about you. Not observing the rules can endanger others.” Those who refuse to follow the rules are often self-identified Trump followers, and/or conservatives. The others are largely liberals.
Over a year ago I wrote a lengthy essay trying to determine the major principles that differentiated liberals from conservatives.
Essentially, I concluded that the fundamental difference is that conservatives privileged individual freedom over the common good, a case of self vs other. Liberals privileged the community over the individual and made the common good the higher priority. (I also had a briefer entry in this journal on 6-24-20.) The mask wearing issue is a clear illustration of my contention. It is further born out by the rules promulgated by Republican governors compared to those mandated by Democratic governors.
Later today, pundits in the TV news described the unwillingness to require masks as an example of how Trump followers deny science. I think they are actually denying that they have any responsibility toward the common good when it impinges on their own personal freedom; and denying the science behind the pandemic is a necessary step to permit them to privilege individual freedom over communal good.July 15, 2020 at 12:46 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73974
I was so pleased to see your references and quotes of Brian Swimme. I count him and Campbell as the two most formative sources in my education. Several years ago, as an adjunct instructor, I created and taught a course called “Cosmology for the Non-Scientist.” It was built on Swimme’s book, “The Universe Story” and his Canticle to the Cosmos.
We have, throughout this discussion chain, alluded to the need for new myths, and how we might go about creating them. For good or for ill, whether consciously or unconsciously, I believe we are actually doing it. I would cite one of my favorite Swimme quotes to illustrate:
“That which fascinates the human imagination will become that which shapes life. We are a space that enables the future to act in the present in a major new way. We transform the life process into a teleological process. What goals, purposes, aims, are we going to choose as human beings? What we choose will become the central shaping power of the life process.
At a personal level, that which grips your imagination will determine your life and character. That’s why it’s important to guard your imagination from pollution.
At a species level, that which fascinates the human imagination is already that which life is becoming.” – Brian Swimme
A great challenge for me is the rather constant oscillation between the macro and the micro viewpoint – from the cosmos to the quark, from our U.S. Constitution to a silly Executive Order, from a global pandemic to a virus so small it isn’t even a single celled organism. This change in perspectives necessary to understand things really demands the kind of transformation of consciousness Campbell so often speaks about. In a pragmatic sense, it gives truth to this quote by Alan Kay: “A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”
But it was Brian Swimme who enabled me to go from microscope to telescope and connect all the dots in-between. So thanks for introducing him into this discussion. It’s always good to find a kindred spirit.
Pilgrim 1July 11, 2020 at 4:13 pm in reply to: The Air We Breathe #73978
Here’s a pice that resonates with me:
The Three Equations for a Happy Life, Even During a Pandemic.