When looking at new forms of mythology, flourishing especially in Europe and during the XX century, what Dr Joseph Campbell called Creative Mythologies, we should first of all understand that this kind of myth has followed a long process of transformation, involving not just long periods of time and a vast space, but furthermore it involved many different writing trends and writers: bards, troubadours, poets, novelists and so on.
Some scholars believe human rites and myths are inherited species’ genes, just as animal courtship rites are passed genetically from ancestors to contemporary individuals. Animals instinctively know courtships and use those for male-female reproductive relationships. Similarly, scholars such as Dr Campbell claim that humans do have rites and myths passed through generations. How those rites and myths have been passed on, we don’t know for certain. It might have been inward-gazing, inward-listening seers (shamans), responding to some inner voice movement of the species. What is true though about human beings’ development, is that a long brain capacity plus a long infancy and a long learning period, results on a danger of derailment. Under these circumstances, the control of instincts plus a collective education and myth orientation for communal successful life has been key for survival. Myths and rites served a fostering, educative function, bearing the unfinished nature product to full, harmonious unfoldment as an adult specifically adapted for survival in a certain specific environment, as a fully participating member of a specific social group, and apart from that group he would neither have come to maturity nor have been able to survive.
However, myth has been used and transformed for social, cultural, political and collective psychological control purposes. As a doctrine tool, it has been used to maintain and to establish power, and those on top of the hierarchy, used it to control the majority. The religious and political elites adoctrinated with their imposed myths and rites. Nevertheless, history is the interaction of power on the one hand, its establishment, maintenance and increase, and those counter-forces, on the other. This type of doctrine myth, which is seen as dogmatic, is the waste land, the land where myth is patterned by authority, not emergent from life, where all is set for all and forever. The waste land is any world in which force and not love, indoctrination, not education, authority, not experience, prevail in the ordering of lives, and where myths and rites enforced and received are consequently unrelated to the actual inward realisation, needs and potentialities of those upon whom they are impressed.
This dogmatic myth remained in communities for millenniums, but with the time some decided to detach themselves from it. This would be with the entering to our contemporary era. Dr. Carl Jung on contrast of the Catholic and Protestant psychological states in relation of their understanding of symbols wrote: history of Protestantism is a chronic iconoclasm, one wall after another one fell, after church authority shattered, which resulted on poverty of symbols. Protestants allowed the decay of mother’s religious heritage and symbolism, and looked at the oriental for the unknown, on an unrooted oriental thought. The falling of the church left a blank that could be filled, so the oriental was introduced though it was unfamiliar. Some decided to reject that oriental thought, which resulted on a vacuum, which was filled with stupid and social ideas, distinguished by spiritual bleakness. All of this ends on spiritual poverty, no god to believe on. As a result of that, some started dwelling with themselves. The Catholics by contrast, found the opposite, over exposure to signs and symbology that did not connect with the real world, the modern world, which resulted in literature such as Don Quijote. A new literature that questioned the status quo. Those that chose to break with all this symbolism, decided to liquidate the structuring mythology of mythological structured life. Others decided to unbind its archetypal symbology and restored to them its primary force and value as mythological-psychological universal. Not only of the history of the bible and the church, but also of the universe and the evolution of the species, a suspicion was confirmed: that the biblical myth of creation, fall and redemption was untrue. It spread throughout the Christian world a desolating sense of no divinity within (mythic dissociation) and no participation in divinity without (social identification dissolves). This is the mythological base of the waste land of the modern soul (alienation). As an example, the stories of Ravaged Livry of Abelard and Heloise showed that neither human love nor human reason could much longer support the imposed irrational ordeals of a mythic order, out of touch with every movement of the native mind, as well as heart, and held in force only by the reign of terror.
It all started though long before Protestantism spread throughout Europe. It was with Arthurian Romance that we had for the first time a sense that myth was neither political, neither of courtly ideals and manners, nor sacramental-ecclesiastical-ascetic, but psychological in the modern sense of treating of spiritual initiations to his own unfolding realisations of the mystery of existence. In these stories, each knight enters individually in the forest, an individual path straight to paradise, which has been the fundamental myth of modern western man, individualistic myth. Each knight was in his intelligible character, an unprecedented species in himself, whose life-way and life-form could be revealed and realised only by and through himself. In this literature we find a sense of yearning and striving toward an unknown end, so characteristic of the western living of life, so alien to the oriental. In these Romances, the gods and goddesses of other days have become knights and ladies, hermits and kings of this world, their dwelling castles, and the adventures, largely magical, are of the magic rather of poetry than of the traditional religion, not so much miracles of god as signs of an unfolding dimension of nature.
Before the XII and XIII century, Christian thought taught that divinity was transcendent, out there, not within men and its world, but out there. Turning inward, men found not divinity but only his own created soul, which might or might not be in proper relationship to its supposed creator. But this inward gazing becomes cultural in the West. As expressed in our western arts portraiture, in a Rembrandt, in a Titian, this experience of the metaphysical dimension of the individual as a value is set forth in a manner unmatched in this world of art, and in Dante’s work as well, the souls disposed in hell, purgatory and paradise retain for eternity their characters exhibited on earth. For here the individuality is not (as in the Orient) a mere figment of illusion, to be analysed away and dissolved at last, but a substantial entity in itself to be realised, brought to flower. And the adventure of each, so interpreted, consisted in the following of a summons away from “the fixed and the set fast” (Goethe’s phase) of the world conceived as law, to a “becoming”, the purgatory, of an individual life moving towards its own proper end, its “wyrd,” or, in Dante’s terms, its own appropriate place among the petals of the paradisal golden rose.
To fight those dogmatic myths, counter forces such as love, appeared when doubts arose conducing to a criticism of the power principle. This criticism might have derived on renunciation of this power. Dr Jung says that Eros is a Kosmogonos, a creator and father-mother of all higher consciousness. In the ancient world, the deity symbolic of the creative energy of that whole was Eros. Love bears all things and endures all things. We are the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic love in the deepest sense. In the Orient, the Bodhisattva represented this principle in its aspects both of time-transcending wisdom (Bodhi) and of time-regarding compassion (Karuna), while Shiva, as both the archetypal Yogi and the personification of the Lingam, was an earlier representation of the same. Dionysus and Orpheus were also personifications of this deity, of parts of it. It seems as if the concept of love had been used from east to west, having assigned to it a super power embracing all and within all beings.
Dr Jung believed that dogma takes the collective unconscious by formulating its contents on a grand scale. Iconoclasm though made crumble symbolism, conflicting directly with reason. Besides, before there was a lack of questioning of catholic Christianism such as the divinity of Christ or the trinity. At some point, humans started thinking about this symbolism. Some started using reason to sum-total all the prejudices and myopic views, some used love to fight established myths.
With the time and entering into the XX century, authors such as Thomas Mann and James Joyce discovered that myth was not dogmatic and fixed. Myth was discovered as fresh and alive, as a pattern that was no pattern, a living organism in constant change. From a priest centred mythology, dogmatic, and in which the individual had no say, we passed to a myth created by each individual and a live myth that existed in each of us. From an individual life that did not matter and that was under a mathematical order, shaping the cosmos and connecting to one being that only mattered, we passed on to a myth for each individual human being, becoming the latter the subject of study and truth.
These authors, who were from a Protestant and Catholic religious background, faced and resolved the same problem, the understanding of the world they lived on, at least in three levels. First, in the personal level of the artist dwelling in a world of people of another race, another order of experience and expression. Next, on the aesthetic level of twentieth century novelists, who had inherited from their forebears an essentially rationalistic, naturalistic, anecdotal-historical narrative art, inadequate to their understanding of psychology in its universal, mythological, as well as individual, biographically conditioned aspects. And then, thirdly, on the religious level, the related problem of an inherited ecclesiastical tradition of publicly professed beliefs, that were altogether incongruent not only to the sciences but also to the actual moral order and humanistic conscience of the secularised Christian nations of this modern world. Differences between those two authors existed though. Thomas Mann came to his symbols from the secular world, through literature and art, not by way of ingraining from childhood of the iconography of a seriously accepted, ritually ordered religion, such as the one inherited by James Joyce. In The Magic Mountain, the call to adventure is to a land of no return, removed from every law and notion of value of the “flatland” (as Mann’s call it) or the waste land. The Abyss that Hans refused, and together with Hans, Thomas Mann, his author, Joyce and his characters entered: so that in the following majestic works, Joseph and his brothers and Finnegan’s Wake, where the implications of the dream in the snow and brothel orgy open to full flower and the plane of waking is let go, to drop to that of dream (which is to say myth), we are presented with opposed experiences and representations of the archetypes of our lives: that of the soul of light, so to say, and that of the soul of darkness.
The usage of the “lady soul” on the books of The Magic Mountain, in The Odyssey… in which the lover invited the hero to death, corresponding to those guiding, shining nymphs, who do initiate the hero into knowledge beyond death, hinted at the function of those female characters. Carl Jung stated that such women are anima figures, the archetypes of life itself, life’s promise and allure “power”. The anima lives beyond all categories, and can therefore dispense with blame as well as with praise. Psychologically, the sense of such a female by a spring is of an apparition of the abyss: psychologically the unconscious, mythologically the land below the waves, hell, purgatory or heaven. She is a portion of oneself, one’s destiny, one’s secret intention of oneself (Schopenhauer), the sum of all the nymphs and matrons, memories and prospects, of his life.
In the Mandukya Upanishad, we find the four planes, quarters or modes of being: the common consciousness to all man, a waking state, a consciousness outward turned; the shinning one, or dream state, inward-turned; the deep dreamless sleep, where the sleeper neither desires anything desirable nor is in fear of anything terrible; lastly, the fourth portion of the self, in silence unqualified, neither inward nor outward turned, in which the self is to be realised, the ultimate ground of being: neither knowing nor unknowing, because it is a state of invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, undefinable, the coming to peaceful rest of all differentiated, relative existence. Similarly, Dr Joseph Campbell comments on the concept of AUM: what has become, is becoming, what will become and what is beyond these three states of the world of time. A denotes the waking state of consciousness, common to all men, which is outward turned, the empirical life, the world of naturalistic art and intellectual abstraction. The symbolisation to describe this world is the essential business of language, which asserts or denies facts. The psychological functions chiefly involved in the outward turned, objective order of cognition, common to all men, are sensation and thinking. Feeling and intuition, on the other hand, lead inward, to private spheres. Intuition is that mode of perception which includes the apprehension of subliminal factors. It is an immediate awareness of relationships that cannot be established by the other three functions at the moment of orientation. U denotes dream consciousness and its world (what is becoming), inward-turned, the movement of the will, objects of subtle matter. The powers personified in the dream are those that move this world.
All the gods are within you, and it will be according to the inward tensions and resolutions balances and imbalances of the individual that his visions will be of either infernal or celestial kind. The concern of reason is therefore to strive towards the divine. In Nietzsche’s “Human, All-too human” we can read that in the ages of the rude beginnings of culture, man believed he was discovering a second real world in dream. Mankind would never had had occasion to invent such a division of the world. The parting of soul and body goes also with this way of interpreting dream, likewise, the idea of a soul’s apparitional body: whence, all belief in ghosts apparently, too, in gods.
M denotes deep dreamless sleep, the unconscious state that is shown in the snow (Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain) and the brothel (James Joyce’s Ulysses). In this AUM concept, it exists a fourth element known as the silence. What is known as the fourth portion, we already read in the Upanishad, is neither inward, nor outward turned consciousness, nor the 2 together, not an undifferentiated mass of dormant omniscience, its sole essence being the assurance of its own self: the coming to peaceful rest of all differentiated, relative existence: utterly quiet: peaceful-blissful: without a second: the self, to be known.
In art, in myth, in rites, we enter the sphere of dream awake. As the imagery of dream will be on one level local, personal and historic, but at bottom rooted in the instincts, so also myth and symbolic art. The message of an effective living myth is delivered to the sphere of bliss of the deep unconscious, where it touches, wakes and summons energies, so that symbols operating on that level are energy releasing and channelling stimuli. Their function, their meaning, is in the level of deep sleep. On the level of waking consciousness the same symbols are inspirational, informative, initiatory, rendering a sense of illumination with respect to the instincts touched, inward and outward nature, of which the instincts touched are the life. Nietzsche stated that myth is the revelatory factor by which the incidents of the daylight world are discovered, linked to that ground which is the ground of all and gives to everything its life.
Dr Jung believed that mythology and the psychology of dream recognised each other as related, even identical. According to him, the comparison of typical dream motifs with those of mythology suggested the idea that dream-thinking should be regarded as a phylogenetically older mode of thought. Just as the body bears the traces of its phylogenetic development, so also does the human mind. Hence there is nothing surprising about the possibility that the figurative language of dreams is a survival from an archaic mode of thought. The dream, stated Jung, is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche, opening to that cosmic night which was the psyche long before there was any ego consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego consciousness may extend. Dr Sigmund Freud believed that by reading the symbols of dreams allegorically, as masked references to the psychological shocks sustained in infancy by the dreamer, chiefly in relation to parental figures, and in turning from dreams to mythologies, he could diagnose these, accordingly, as symptomatic of equivalent shocks in the formative past of the peoples to whom the myths in question appertained.
Dr Carl Jung spoke of two unconscious levels, the personal and the collective (product of innate forms and instincts). This collective unconscious level, Dr Jung believed, was related to the building of myths. The actual images and emphases of any mythological or dream system must be derived from local experience, while the archetypes, the elementary ideas, the roles that the local images serve, must be of an order antecedent to experience, of a plot, so to say, a destiny or “wyrd,” inherent in the psychosomatic structure of the human species. All consciousness separates, but in dreams we put on the likeness of that moral universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all ego hood.
In this newly created myth, which authors such as Thomas Mann and James Joyce rediscovered, it appears the idea of the free will. The moral initiative in the field of time is of man, not god, and not a man, as species, or as member of some divinely ordained consensus, but of each one separately, as an individual, self-moved, in self-consistent action. According to this kind of mythology, there is no fixed law, no established knowledge of god, set up by prophet or by priest, that can stand against the revelation of the life lived with integrity in the spirit of its own brave truth. Every so called fall, is then itself a creative act in which god participates. Yet in this mythology of the self-moving, self-responsible individual in time, there is a depth-dimension as well, transcending time and space. As an example, we find in Finnegan’s Wake the battling brothers, who are opposites, polarised, equals of opposites, evolving by one same power. Again, we find a whole that is within each individual and the same source of energy.
We find with this new creative mythology metaphysics converted to psychology. The archetypes of mythology (god, angels, incarnations…) could no longer be referred to a supposed metaphysical sphere but were of the mind. Or if they referred to anything outside the mind (as for instance the crucifixion of Jesus, the crossing of the red sea or the serpent in the garden), it could be only to individual facts, historical events that were once actually perceived in the field of space and time.
Essentially what has happened is that in the physical field, the field of matter understood as distinct from spirit, an order of law has been recognised that is apparently not the same as that of the human will and imagination. As in the Freudian view in the structuring of the psyche, the wish of the growing child is countered by the prohibition of the parent, and as in Adler’s view, the child’s wish is frustrated by its own impotence to achieve, so here the symbols of the soul’s dynamic structure, projected upon the universe, are not, are broken by an irrefragable order in diametric opposition. Whereas in the soul, or heart, there is the sense of freedom, freedom of choice and to will, out there, in the field of its action, a mechanical determinism prevails. Whereas here there would seem to be intelligence and intention, there is only blind, irresponsible, unknowing , unfeeling momentum. The men of Homer belongs to the same world of their desires, unlike Don Quijote, who faces reality. Because man, each individual man among us, possesses his own soul (Schopenhauer’s intelligible character) and by that light must live or perish, there is no way by which utopias, or the lost garden itself, can be brought out of the future and presented to man, neither can he go forward to such a destiny since in the world of time every man lives but one life, it is in himself that he must search for the secret of the garden.
Nowadays, for even in the sphere of waking consciousness, the fixed and set fast, there is nothing now that endures. The known myth cannot endure. The known god cannot endure. Today all norms are in flux, so that the individual is thrown, willy-nilly, back upon himself, into the inward sphere of his own becoming, his forest adventurous without way or path, to come through his own integrity in experience to his own intelligible castle of the grail – integrity and courage, in experience, in love, in loyalty and in act. Nowadays there are no horizons, no mythogenetic zones. The mythogenetic zone is each individual heart. In this life creative adventure, the criterium of achievement will be, the courage to let go the past, with its truths, its goals, its dogmas of meaning, and its gifts: to die to the world and to come to birth from within.
Based on Creative “The Masks of God: Creative Mythology” by Dr Joseph Campbell.
Pictures taken from: