A myth is a story that never happened in physical reality, yet is always happening, according to Jean Houston, a student of Joseph Campbell. Myth allows us to access the mind of God ("all else is detail," intoned Albert Einstein) and affects us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and cosmically; the story resonates within us in personal and universal ways, so that we are also drawn to others who are drawn to the same myth. It makes us shiver, it gets our Attention.
"Myths talk to psyche in its own language," says James Hillman. "They speak emotionally, dramatically, sensuously, fantastically." This is why the great old stories, such as the Grail myth, the stories of the Greek goddesses and gods, and Shakespeare, have enduring power and engagement in our culture, and why the "new myths" such as the Star Wars cycle and the Indiana Jones series are awaited with anticipation and revisited with enthusiasm. They activate something deep within us - some mirror or magnet, some soul truth, some remembrance or desire -, and that activation has lasting effects in our life. We are storied beings who choose to be reunited with our spiritual source, to find an opening into our Larger Story ("who am I? Why am I here?"), although we often interpret this as a need to escape from our "little local" lives. Some of us try to do this through drugs, others through a personal and sometimes spiritual search which can take myriad forms and shapes. The search is truly mythic and successful only when we actively serve along with receiving the glory and greatness from our Story, when we realize that our personal story has become a part of the Larger Story in service to the Sacred. Our greatness moves through us on the wings of archetypal energy and we are blessed by it. We don't own it nor can we take it back to the personal level in a crass way ("Look at how cool I am, all by myself!") because it isn't ours to take; it belongs to the Creative Source. And we still have our personal life to live and love in, which our Myth will transform. It is decidedly not an escape.
People who are themselves mythic or "larger than life" have been enlivened by some archetype of their souls, seeded from some dimension beyond the merely material. Melvin Franklin, one of the original Temptations (itself a mythic name), said, "This thing is bigger than me." An archetype is symbolized by a character in a great myth - the Great Mother, the Beautiful Maiden, the Wicked Schemer, the Strong Heroine/Hero - and we are transformed when we identify with them and allow them into our psyches. They change us with observable force, creating palpable effects on our circle of loved ones and even acquaintances. A woman may carry the energy of the Maiden archetype and experience herself as playful, sweet, sensuous and creative; later, especially if she has a child, she may be drawn to the Mother and express authority, nurturance, power, and firm limits, with wide-ranging effects on her friends, co-workers and lovers.
I often wondered why mythic people sometimes come to disaster. Judy Garland and Elvis Presley immediately come to mind. Larger than life, for sure. Blessed with so much that so many of us think we want on the material level, and lit from within in transcendent moments with entrancing beauty and talent that transfixed us good. What happened?
They exploded into our lives with intensity and insistence, and now that we know the completion of their stories, we may still envy, and yet feel sorry for them, in those quiet moments when we are "just us" and can think or say just about anything in our little homes and the privacy of our minds. They did not have this luxury of quiet, restful, "just me" time, or they would be here today, living lives at times like ours, of hopes and dreams, aspirations and disappointments, of warm fuzzies and unexpected grace, of defeats and depressions that sometimes crush but do not destroy. My mother once said that her life as the youngest of four was made hellish by having an older sister who functioned as another, even sterner mother who wouldn't let her get away with anything. The Great Mother archetype run amok. "Every kid should be able to get away with something," she said, and startled me, her youngest, who had gotten away with Nothing (Rapunzel, locked away in her tower). But the point is that people, even mythic people, are "just folks", who can lean back into their lives, rather than escape, and can be into something other than their own ego, rampaging image, and fame, and the attendant anxieties of marketing same.
My hunch is that Judy and Elvis had archetypes that ran amok with them, and made their lives hellish. They forgot that the archetype runs through them, like the river, but doesn't take up permanent residence there. And we the idolizing public helped them to forget. They tried to escape the "little local" part of their lives, and didn't make it. The archetype inspires them, breathes through them, but is not them. They are not It. It is on heavenly loan to all of us for as long as we take care of it and provide it with a fit home, which primarily means providing an open energy channel within our mindbody. If we do not remember to serve the sacred in our mythic existence, if we get caught up in our personal greatness and image, we do so at our own peril, as the great myths say.
Myth opens the dimension of our own sacrality to us, while we celebrate humanity. It's a "both/and", not an "either/or". So we can soar to our heights on this energy surge - watch a little kid playing with her Star Wars light sword, observe an impassioned adult creating a work of art - and we still get to rest at lunchtime, and maybe even take a nap. We still get to chop wood and carry water. For there is greatness in our sweet human bodies, and deep serenity in Being "just me".
Dianne Lobes wanted to be a mythic journalist in her youth, and was not, due to being locked up in her Rapunzellian tower (wrong myth for a journalist). She's free now in her new myth and believes in "getting away with things" as much as possible (very Artemisian), studying consciousness, and writing as her archetypal muse moves her. She also counsels and teaches Conscious Language.
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