All of life is a meditation, whether we are aware of it or not. Put even more succinctly, life is a meditative mythology. We are, each of us, walking, talking myth-machines going through the motions of our mythological projections. In any given culture, we are the hardware, and mythology is the software.
We are naturally creatures of myth. It’s a human need to be told stories, and to tell them. Joseph Campbell described mythology as having four basic functions: the Mystical Function: experiencing the awe of the universe; the Cosmological Function: explaining the shape and image of the universe; the Sociological Function: supporting and validating a certain social order; and the Psychological (pedagogical) Function: how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.
As it stands, our current mythology is somewhat progressive in the cosmological function but seriously lacking in the mystical, sociological, and psychological functions. We, as individual mythmakers, have the power to change this, to create new, healthier stories that work in all four categories. And we must if our species has any chance of surviving on this planet in a healthy way.
When our mythology is one of dominance, control and comfortable inertia, we become stagnant, hard and closed off to the underlying essence. When our mythology is one of passivity, chaos, and orgiastic passion, we become too vulnerable and soft, fragmented and unable to contain the underlying essence. But when our mythology is one of healthy moderation and balance between these polarities, the underlying essence can be tapped, and the overarching theme becomes a sort of existential solace, or connection to the heart of creation; what Nietzsche called the “Primordial Unity”, which revives the balance between our Dionysian and Apollonian nature.
The more of us creating new, personalized myths, instead of relying upon old stagnant myths, the more likely we are to achieve a higher and healthier state of evolution. In a balanced culture, bad myths will get weeded out and good myths will progress. In an unbalanced culture, even good myths can stagnate and become bad myths that no longer apply. Like James Russell Lowell said, “Time makes ancient good uncouth.”
One very powerful way of bringing forth this balance is through the art of self-inflicted mythology: the personal creation of living myths. Self-inflicted mythology (the cornerstone of self-inflicted philosophy) bridges the gap between science and spirituality by showing a child-like trust and hope for the human condition, in itself, which leaves open the realm of personalized mystery and enchantment.
It is a way of dreaming away from the world (current myth), in order to discover other-worldly knowledge (new myth) that can then be used in the real world upon our “return.” It’s a Promethean act of courage in the face of the current myth. Its structure is based upon metaphor, simile, and analogy, which keeps our third-eye sharp enough to intuit “otherworldly” mechanisms for perceiving reality, but it also has a direct effect on reality itself.
One must tend to the soul with art, poetry, and myth, with failure and loss, with ambiguity and complexity; rather than soulless, machine-like, diagnosis and treatment. Otherwise the world that’s created becomes unhealthy and unsustainable. It becomes a world where products are primary and people are secondary. Like Daniel Quinn wrote, “We have an organizational system that works wonderfully well for products. But we don’t have a system that works wonderfully well for people.”
The myths we harbor can work for or against us. Our current myth is a violent, exploitative, dog-eat-dog system. Our duty, if we have the courage, is to update this outdated, unsustainable myth into a healthy, sustainable myth that meets violence with laughter, exploitation with expiation, and the dog-eat-dog system with a human-support system.
“My work is really about changing the old stories — the defining narratives and myths of our civilization, and therefore the institutions and systems that are built on those myths,” says Charles Eisenstein. “They don’t resonate much anymore. We need new stories that will change the world.” Our tool for changing the world is our own personalized myth. Our vehicle is our meditation. Our goal is, as Thomas Berry said, “to move the human community from its destructive presence on the planet to a benign or mutually enhancing presence on the planet.”
For those in whom a mythology is healthy, there is an experience of tonality with the human condition, of equilibrium with the cosmos, and an overall sense of symmetry and meaningfulness. For those, however, in whom a mythology is unhealthy, there is an experience of atonality with the human condition, of dissociation with the universe, and an overall sense of asymmetry and meaninglessness. It’s our duty as mythmakers to create responsible mythologies that are healthy contributions to reality.
But first we need to take a step back and think like an outsider. We need to let go of the outdated myths and unhealthy stories that are inadvertently destroying our world. We need to release the old myth in order to embrace our newly created myths. Think past it, around it, inside and out of it. Let it be what it is, and then let your imagination run rampant all over it.
Take the framework of your yester-life and break it, reshape it, widen it, rebuild it out of rubber-bands if need be. The point is to prevent the frame from ever becoming a locked safe. And if it already has, it isn’t too late. You know the combination. And if you’ve somehow forgotten it, then shatter the lock.
You’re the only one who can. Like Leonardo da Vinci said, “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Please don’t let humanity become a soul-less destructive mechanism that suppresses love, creativity and imagination. Don’t turn your life into a commodity. Instead, allow your life to become an adventure. Be mythological.
Creative myths are wonderfully cathartic because they cast on the primordial screen of our imaginations archetypal echoes and immense personifications of our hopes and capacities. Mythology bridges the gap between science and spirituality through a kind of mythological methodology: a subjective method of scientific inquiry using archetypal psychology as a vehicle toward discovery.
Mythology is the world on an elephant on a tortoise; science is explaining the infinite fabric of reality beneath the tortoise. Both are needed for the creative scientific-mythological victory over human limitation. We must create our own forms of faith, our own gods, and our own myths.
This will be an arduously Nietzschean task, but a most important one. Human beings make progress not by becoming more rigorous but by becoming more imaginative. Like Joseph Campbell said, “It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestations.”
But societal change is never a black and white issue of total abstinence of outdated traditions to be replaced by the renovated new. History always has, and always will, proceed dialectically. Societal change will be a mixing of the old myth (x) with the new myth (y) to create the hybrid myth (xy), or “new” middle-gray mythology. Like Mark Twain said, “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Let’s just make an attempt at taking the good aspects of mythology forward and leave the bad aspects behind.
At the end of the day, creating our own myths is a way of putting our own fingerprint on the history of human evolution. It’s a way of taking old and current myths into consideration, learning from them, and then shedding them like an old skin, so that we can discover something new.
Like Francesca Lia Block said, “Choose to believe in your own myth, your own glamour, your own spell.” At any rate, it will give people something to do, to help fit them into their own destiny, to help prevent their wandering aimlessly about in an empty, desolate existence. It’s a way of bringing meaning to the meaninglessness in our own unique way, and then sharing it with others. Like Carl Jung said, “Dream the myth forward.” Forget genes and memes, take the mytheme and astonish the world.