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MythBlast | The Place of Bliss

BY Raïna Manuel-Paris July 15, 2019

…to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act . . . Joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world and everything changes.
—Joseph Campbell, Sukhavati: Place of Bliss

With Sukhavati, a mesmerizing and spiritual portrait of Campbell emerges, as he challenges us to participate “joyfully in the sorrows of the world.”  Such joyful participation in the sorrows of the world is a truly revolutionary act.

Campbell tells us that by following our dream, “it will lead you to the myth world in which you live. The god is in you. It Is not something that happens somewhere else.” This is the truth to which all myths refer; this is the ecstatic song of the Sufi poets, and the mystics. This is the numinous, creative place an artist or an athlete can touch when she surrenders completely to the moment.

Dreams are the key. In truth, Campbell tells us, they are self-luminous, they shine of themselves as gods do. Through dreams we create our own mythology related to the archetypes. The dream is the path of our imagination, our capacity for this symbolic movement of the mind toward the eternal, the unfathomable.

Myths exist as a reflection of our deep longing for the numinous at the level of culture. Our soul knows what is real, what matters, and what the true nature of Beauty is. When we lie to ourselves, we get sick. Our dreams will tell us so, they will reflect our disconnection, our pain and take us to the brink — the borderland where chaos and order, dark and light, meet.

Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden (J.M. Waterhouse, paint on canvas, England, 1903)
Psyche Entering Cupid’s Garden (J.M. Waterhouse, paint on canvas, England, 1903)

To dare to enter into the adventure is to hold hands with the terrifying wisdom of Psyche; it is saying yes to the hero’s journey. To enter the place of bliss is to enter something greater than yourself and become animated with the fire of the gods living within us all. This experience can be nearly intolerable for those of us whose heart has been calcified by fear and trauma and, honestly, the return to the everyday world from the place of Bliss can be just as difficult.

When we get lost, disconnected, or forget the guidance of the dream, as we tend to do, Life generously provides us with what often seems to be a crisis, but in reality is a moment of truth: the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, an illness, an accident, a betrayal. These are the initiatory moments that make us listen more deeply, question our motives, examine the old wounds that are covered over but not healed. These challenges are the portals to stillness and healing, where we can begin again to follow our passion, where we can follow our bliss. Mystery is at the core of life and each of us continues to wrestle with that archetypal principle in our own way.

It is often in the most difficult of times that the soul can finally free itself from the tyranny of the ego, and wherein one may “joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world where everything changes.” It sometimes seems the soul guides one into a paradise which exists in the midst of loneliness and despair.  When we have nothing left to lose, when even our very lives no longer seem to belong to us, when all seems lost, these are the moments in which the individuation process begins. In such situations it seems divine intervention is required, at least some unimaginable response that transcends the ego is needed, and that is exactly when the Self may appear, uniting heaven and hell in the same breath, in a revolutionary moment of total surrender to the fact that who I was, I am no longer, and who I am feels less than human, and is yet worthy of divine attendance.

Śiva Naṭarāja, Lord of the Dance (bronze, India, eleventh century <span style="font-variant:small-caps">a.d.</span>; public domain — courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of New York)
Śiva Naṭarāja, Lord of the Dance (bronze, India, eleventh century a.d.; public domain — courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of New York)

Lived as such, life is a revolutionary process. When we can accept the processes of life and death that occur again and again as a part of learning to live a life of soul–a life which has its origins in the underworld, we become free to choose, and we choose to “turn our fall into a voluntary act.” This experience presents itself to us in order to illuminate our journey toward an authentic connection with the Self, and extends both inward toward the individual soul and outward toward the world soul (Anima Mundi). It is the dance of life, the dance of Naṭarāja, the lord of creation and destruction.

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