Sunday, December 7, 2014


The last series of post here dealt with emotions and the way 21st Century humans in the West are dealing with them. Which is to say, describing some of the ways we are trying to avoid them. It doesn't matter whether it happens in the workplace, where the expectation is that feelings get checked at the door, or at home where they tend to be relegated to the female part of the family, or when the males lose it and explode all over the wrong person.

While I'm aware that these are easy generalizations that don't describe every situation, none the less, it still holds that most contemporary Americans don't know what they are feeling and have no idea what they mean when they become aware of them.

We are often encouraged to be in the present. Eckhardt Tolle has made a great success for himself speaking and writing about it in his best seller "The Power Of Now." The title is misleading to me because it claims that Power is somehow contained within Now and that I can somehow learn to either harness the power for some purpose, or I can succumb to that power and then, I don't know what comes next.

As you might expect, I have raised the topic of belief so I can look at how it exists in society. After almost 19 years of coaching I have become aware that the clients I've worked with are a lot like me. They act based on the way they believe things are. Joseph Campbell spent a lifetime learning about and teaching the way myth has operated in the lives of humans as far back as he could see. We have come down from a ling line of myth makers, yet we are pretty much mistaken about what Campbell was trying to teach us.

Humans are pretty much awe struck by what we call Creation. It is enormous and mystical, beyond our comprehension. So we have always tried to understand how everything got here. Actually I think we have tried to figure out how we got here. So these myths that have been created by civilization after civilization are the stories told to try to figure out the mystery of us. They explain the ineffable.

Today we think of myth as a synonym for lie. Actually, a myth is a Creation story, as told by the observers of a time. Where they seem to be untrue is at the scientific level where our knowledge and experience find details that seem to invalidate the myth. But the myth is about a culture and their understanding of what they see and what inspires their awe and the way they explain it to themselves so they can focus on being hunter gatherers or farmers or fishermen instead of being constantly amazed and spending their days in wonder.

You might ask, what does this have to do with belief in today's world?

Good question. The answer requires looking back in order to see the context that gives rise to our belief.  Not long before his death in 1987 Campbell was talking about the fact that our current mythology (our Creation story) has been overtaken by our Cosmology. What he was referring to was the nature of the gods. Or for monotheists, God. Early humans thought the gods were among us. While we couldn't identify them, they were responsible for the events we could observe but not understand. The next view was the gods as Giants. They lived in the forest outside our view somewhere, but we saw the evidence of their work. The next stop was Mount Olympus, followed by Heaven.

Campbell said that we always find the gods so powerful that they couldn't live where we live, it wouldn't make sense. But today we travel the heavens, as we call it, and we have no new way of seeing the gods out of our reach. The danger with this is Hubris, or excessive pride. That dangerous belief that I am God. Interestingly, every Western civilization's stories begin with Pride. Whether it's the Garden of Eden, or Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Odyssey, every one is a war with our vision of power and how it is expressed.

It seems that what's most important to humans is Power, at least in the West. I can claim no familiarity with Eastern Mythology and am unable to quote it, but I suspect there is a similar story to tell there.

This connection here seems to call for a proposal. The connection between the struggle with and for power must be connected to the most important subject to the human. That's survival. The most important thing to every species has always been claimed to be survival. And all the successful species have found ways to support and assure their survival. Interestingly, most species are dedicated to the survival of their species. Humans seem to have evolved to the point that I am more important than the species. And the speech in the West is continuing to focus more and more on the individual. Yet the anthropologists think it is our interconnectedness that has assured our survival so far.

Have we lost our humility and connectedness to our hubris?

More tomorrow.

1 comment:

Juice said...

Truly a great reading. Reminded me of Joseph Campbell's PBS series....Follow Your Bliss.