Saturday, April 17, 2004

Follow your Bliss!

I was always a great fan of Joseph Campbell. I read the Hero with a Thousand Faces in Crete; I worked my way through all four volumes of Masks of God; I have read smaller works like Myths To Live By. He suffered poverty and unemployment and simply retreated into studying all the great myths and legends, which he said were sufficient to pull him through. I remember an interview with a Macrobiotic magazine, who wanted to steer him towards diet, and he said his diet of books was his only yoga.

I mention this because I am digging back through old notes about the four elements, which originally led me to study astrology for a couple of years. Nothing to do with predictions, and cosmic influences, I hasten to add! I was fascinated by such a complex and ancient system of description of cycles - life cycles, planetary cycles - the measure of time, and the qualities of different times and seasons; and of psychological types, as well as phases of life. It was a rich source of myth - and it was story-telling that I was investigating.

I find it sad that people do not understand how myths can be 'truer' and more resonant than simple historical events.

It's worth looking at the 2003 Blavatsky Lecture if you are interested in myths and mystical experience (rather than dogma, whether religious or New Age).

"Every occultist worth his or her salt is a romantic, be they aware of this or not. Whether they be called William Blake, Eliphas Levi, or Mme. Blavatsky, and before them Valentinus, Basilides, and Ammonius Saccus, all such persons were primarily concerned not with passing on factual information but with engendering that majestic sense of wonder that one glimpses to a minor degree in sunsets, grand landscapes, fairy tales, and hoary legends, and to a major degree in great art and in the experience of the 'wholly other' in ecstasies of the spirit.
Mystics and Gnostics speak the language of myth, not of cold logic or scientific fact. Yet it must be remembered that some such persons have the misfortune to live in an age that has an inadequate appreciation of myth. The author of The Secret Doctrine belonged in this category. There was no word in the dictionary of nineteenth century intellectuals for 'psychological model of the cosmos'; C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and their fellows had not come upon the scene yet to rehabilitate myth and symbol. What was H.P. Blavatsky to do?"

"Myth was the favourite and universal method of teaching in archaic times. [3]
Fairy tales do not exclusively belong to nurseries; all mankind - except those few who in all ages have comprehended their hidden meaning, and tried to open the eyes of the superstitious - have listened to such tales in one shape or other, and after transforming them into sacred symbols, called the product Religion. [4]
There are few myths in any religious system but have an historical as well as a scientific foundation. Myths ... are now found to be fables just in proportion as we misunderstand them; truths, in proportion as they were once understood. [5]" Isis Unveiled HPB

And in Joseph Campbell's last interview, with Bill Moyers, you'll find the Star Wars link which brings it all full circle:

"Moyers also finds the perfect hook for a global audience, examining Campbell's admiration of George Lucas's Star Wars saga as a popular tapestry of ancient myths, and Lucas himself is interviewed in a DVD bonus segment ("I'm not creating a new myth," he says, "but telling old myths in a new way"). Campbell's seemingly endless well of knowledge reaches a simple conclusion: we need myths to survive like we need oxygen to breathe, as a life force with which to understand our existence--past, present, and future."

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