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MythBlast | Creative Mythology: Revelation of the Real

BY Neora Myrow October 21, 2018

Creative Mythology coverLet’s play a game of mental association. I say “Joseph Campbell.” You say, “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” If I ask, “Which of Campbell’s ideas is the most influential?” There’s a good chance you’ll say “the Hero’s Journey.” When I began story doctoring, I thought that too.  But it turns out Campbell’s Masks of God, Volume IV: Creative Mythology is what I actually use in practice. The frames in this book open up the mythic dimension for writers and students like a magic key.

The big idea from Creative Mythology is the value of an authentic, individual experience. The method that allows us to put this idea into practice is one of comparative literature: identify how the story you are working to tell, (or the story you are living), is both a relevant mythic model, and a distinct narrative. This method is itself an iteration  of the Hero’s Journey that unlocks the possibility of working with your story in functional ways. Merely question your own story. Like Aladdin’s enchanted incantation, “Open Sesame!,” the conversation unlocks the mythic layer of your narrative.

The journey through Campbell’s Creative Mythology is an exquisite unpacking of a moment in time: the medieval Renaissance, when the Western story of the Self emerged. Prior to the Renaissance, divine mysteries were thought to exist only within the confines of traditional theological systems. But with the dawning of this new era, we began to believe that these divine mysteries happen to us through ordinary experiences. When we experience ordinary moments authentically, the extraordinary comes through. Campbell believed that artists capture such irruptions in forms, and express these breakthroughs of the mysteries in understandable, transmissible manifestations carrying the weight of living myth.

In this movement, we see the surfacing of the myth of the modern Western man, what we still believe to be the highest ideal in the individuated Self. This is the mythology and value of the idea of the individual, whose penultimate expression is the Artist. What matters to Campbell and the evolving sense of individual value is this: authentic experience as the road into and through the mysteries.

Tristan and Iseult
“Tristan and Iseult” from La Morte D’Arthur (illustrated by Sir William Russell Flint, 1911)

For example, do you remember your first moment of falling in love? This is something we’ve all experienced. From a Campbellian perspective, this visceral encounter engages you in the mysteries. Comparatively, recall literary moments: Tristan and Isolde drinking the love/death potion, or Romeo and Juliet, the first moment they lay eyes on one another. In falling in love, we participate in the transpersonal, personally. The process, when we experience it in our depths, re-orders our inner axis. The way we see the world shifts, exposing the heart to the grave and constant. For you it might be that girl or boy you had on a crush on at 14. It’s the way their blue, hazel, or brown eyes light up at that moment they pass you on the street. As they look at you, you quiver in your bones. Butterflies invade your belly. You look up at the night sky, and the blanket of stars that before was mere confusion, is now a constellation of right times and right places; it is fate. You feel your own mystery in them. In a flash, you are different. Re-ordered. Before and after. In between, you are initiated. Now you will know pain. Longing, maybe ecstasy, but for sure suffering. Welcome to the Love/Death club. Something archetypal, something cosmic has happened to you, as it happens to all of us, all throughout time.

Throughout Creative Mythology, Campbell reiterates what happens in these ordinary, extraordinary moments. The shattering of belief—about what love is, where or what God is—in the face of an authentic experience that we feel in our bones and in our bellies. It’s not someone else’s idea or ideal. It’s you in an experience that feels real for you.

When we are genuinely present in these moments – ordinary moments, through which the extraordinary reveals itself – the great mysteries Campbell writes of open up to us too.

Don’t miss out. Pick up Creative Mythology today. Open it to any page. The revelations drip from each one, waiting for you. Let Campbell’s ideas change the way you see your story and your life, revealing the day-to-day mysteries that await all of us.

This is living myth.

Thank you for reading,

Neora Myrow


Tristan and Iseult

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