Addition to “Myths are ‘True Words'”

What is Myth?

Part Four Addition: Myths are “True Words”

This post quote: “On the ocean, you are too alone to ever be lonely.”

Quote #2: “The small contains the infinite; the infinite contains the small.”

In addition to Myth being a story conveying absolute truth, part of the meaning of Myth (muthos, Greek) is “true word or true speech.” Let us look at another example of mythic speech. Once, as part of a spiritual discussion, I heard the following: “On the ocean, you are too alone to ever be lonely.” For some reason I had thought this quote was from Kabir, the famous 16th century Saint from India, but research suggests it is likely a re-phrasing of something more modern by Tania Aebi, an American sailor (“You can’t be lonely on the sea—you’re too alone”).

No matter. What do we make of these words? The saying is certainly paradoxical. If applied Mythosophy is akin to an insight meditation on myth, then what does mythosophical contemplation reveal?

There is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness speaks to separation and lack; absence of contact with others produces an emptiness that needs filling. Loneliness is need and an attitude of deprivation; a poverty of consciousness. In contrast, aloneness is simply a condition of being self-sufficient and implies a wholeness of self. There is no neediness implied with the condition of aloneness. One is equally happy in the company of others or not. Aloneness can mean fulfillment.

“Alone” evokes the mystical phrase of being “alone with the Alone,” a spiritual experience of being in the presence of the Holy. And, what is spiritual experience? It is subjective attunement with “that which is greater than thou” and gives expansion of consciousness, upliftment and healing. It is the reordering of all priorities away from ego and toward the Good, some say God (I sometimes say “God–not God;” my term for the utter indescribability of the Transcendent).

“Ocean” refers to the fullness of all consciousness (the Good or “God—not God”). There is never a minute we are not sailing upon that sea; whatever experience you are having, you are inscribing a course on that endless tract. We have but to awaken and realize we are sailing or travelling from God, through God, toward God in the guise of our own unique consciousness expressed as awareness. We travel from ourselves, through ourselves, toward ourselves. The minutest of awareness touches the greatness of all consciousness. The small contains the infinite; the infinite contains the small.

Most likely, there has been a time in your life when you found yourself speaking high words of truth to another perhaps in helping someone through a tumultuous experience. Alternately, you may have found yourself giving calm and clear instructions in the midst of calamity and disaster. Apt descriptions of events can clarify complexity into basic essentials and serve to raise the sights and hopes of your hearers. Mythic speech can transform problems into situations. With clarity comes resolution; with resolution, courage, and it is through courage that heroes are born. Often, after such utterances, one wonders “Where on Earth did those inspired words come from? It wasn’t from me!” This means you have spoken mythically. It means you have allowed the Spirit of Truth to speak through you and have participated in concert with sacred energies. Part of spirituality is the expression of truth; Mythosophy, the wisdom of myth, (sacred speech, sacred story), is Truth’s Voice clearly and consciously expressed. Within this, we may all dwell.

These words of wisdom sometimes become part of family lore. They can become an ancient clan or family motto inscribed within a heraldic crest or simply posted on the refrigerator door. Regardless, mythic speech involves the speaker and hearer in a transcendental moment, the power of which can cause a shift or change in perspective; a changed state of consciousness.

At the level of Poet or Prophet, to speak mythically is to know and speak forth about things past, present, and future. Muthos needs no adjudication or truth assessment. It carries its own truth value by means of its reference to greater consciousness. Mythic speech “rings true.” It either is or it is not.

Do you have a family saying or bit of wisdom that you carry with you? Mythical speech is the expressed wisdom of your heart. It is stepping upon the path that returns you to your divine source. Returning to spiritual references to “Ocean,” some other sages (Sufis) say “The Ocean refuses no river.” Let the stream of your consciousness so return to “that which is greater than thou.”

We have seen in this and the previous “Myths are True Words” post (August 8, 2014) that myths are true words and true speech; mythic speech: “profound words, sometimes paradoxical, spoken in the moment, unfiltered, from the heart, truthfully, and without guile or calculation.”

To immerse oneself into the Forms of Beauty is to step successively into greater versions of oneself. This is nothing less than your own divinity incarnate. It is nothing more than you being yourself with your attention focused upon the Transcendent and willing to follow its dictates. It is you at your highest, greatest capacitance.

So, speak truly. Be within the spirit of Beauty and speak beautifully. Those who cannot speak must let their acts speak for them. Let us become as lights unto the world and use the sound of our voices to inspire all we meet. Thus, do we become as heroes communicating the high ideals of our lives. We create our own myths through our lives. Heroes live the creative life!

Impossible, you say? Can’t do this all of the time? No worries. Each day a moment arises when we have an opportunity to uplift through our words or acts. Seize those moments, own them, and dwell within their eternity; embrace them, be within them. Part of our true purpose is to uplift ourselves, those around us, and heal in some small way the broken world we travel through. We can always be better, not bitter. With this, Mythosophy, the Wisdom of Myth, can assist.

On the ocean you are too alone to ever be lonely? Aloneness is awareness of divinity. There is no creativity without aloneness. Words are born from silence.

Posted in Alone, Clarity, Gnosis, Healing, Hero, Loneliness, meaning, Myth, Primordial Tradition, Silence, Spirituality, transcendence, Truth, Upliftment, Wisdom | Leave a comment

Death

I am left with a profound silence at the passing of each Soul from this world.  Sacred journeys, all and one; sacred missions, everyone.

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Myths are “True Words”

What is Myth?

Part 4: Myths are “True Words”

This post quote: “Mythic words and speech are reports from the ‘beyond’ about spiritual conditions along the high and radiant path of Truth.”

Quote #2: “It is the healing of everything that has ever been broken within you.”

Continuing from “What is Myth? Part 3” let’s explore more insights on the meaning of myth. In our last post, we saw that myth (Greek: muthos) meant story. No surprise there, other than the understanding that myths are stories considered absolutely true by their sources. Myths convey truths.

What is surprising, however, is that muthos also means word or speech. Everyone implicitly understands that myths are normally housed as stories. While the truths of myth can be presented as an assertion or proposition (such as, “Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, and practical arts”), we nevertheless expect a story about her. In contrast, mythic truth can also come to us encapsulated in a certain type of speech or phrase; perhaps sometimes a saying.

What kind of word or speech, then, is muthos? What is mythic speech? Let’s take it to mean profound words, sometimes paradoxical, spoken in the moment, unfiltered, from the heart, truthfully, and without guile or calculation. Such speech is direct, perhaps abrupt, in its simple honesty yet never by intent offensive or rude. Such words are apt to the situation and “ring true” with hearers. Mythic speech inspires assent. Part of the beauty of such golden words is such that the speaker takes on the mantle of truth and is viewed by hearers in a new light. The spontaneity of mythic speech is often startling in the way it distills a situation’s essence and can sometimes “ruffle feathers.” A muthos can be paradoxical or, otherwise, present a challenge to the hearer; challenge and response. Do we as listeners have the wherewithal to encompass and adopt greater truths beyond our present state of consciousness? Or, do we hesitate and recoil? Does the non-rational repel?

To react out of pique (ego) to such moments and resist the truths of mythic speech is to unwittingly accept lesser realities about oneself and ignore the greater truths toward which mythic speech points. Mythic speech opens a portal through which we first witness the transcendental vision. This image is of Sophia; Wisdom who beckons us toward her. Wisdom beckons, but will we accept her embrace? Do we have the courage for the next spiritual step? Mythic words and speech are reports from the “beyond” about spiritual conditions along the high and radiant path of Truth.

We all have access to Truth and it is often recognized when heard or seen. Yet, we spend our lives in a slumber, forgetting our innate divinity. The reality of mythic speech is that these truths resonate and stir ancient memories of our spiritual roots; our connections with our Source. The remembrance and recollection of our spiritual legacy is profoundly subjective, beautiful, and transformational. It is the healing of everything that has ever been broken within you. It is a mystical experience.

Mythic words may be as brief as a “well turned phrase” or as long as a heroic speech. In any case, supernal truth is conveyed. In Greek myth, whenever a god or goddess is speaking, they are often uttering muthos; mythic speech. The Muses spoke muthos to Hesiod, a lowly shepherd, and gave him the gift of mythic speech allowing him to become a poet and “speak forth” his work, Theogony. “They breathed into me their divine voice, so that I may tell of things to come and things past.” (Theogony, p. 54, lines 31-33, trans. by N. Brown, Bobbs-Merrill, 1953: Indianapolis, IN) Perhaps this was, spiritually, a kiss between the goddesses and a man. Sacred kiss, sacred breath! Muthos is spoken, too, by Greek seers and heroes, as well as poets. The words of the blind seer, Tiresias, in predicting Narcissus’ fate were absolutely true. Let us also remember that a biblical Prophet is “one who speaks forth.” Mythic speech can be prophetic.

In recent times, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is an example of modern day muthos. Abraham Lincoln’s “Second Inaugural” and “Gettysburg Address” are examples of mythic speech. In 1969, Neil Armstrong, upon first stepping onto the moon, uttered “One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” An apt and well turned phrase, indeed. But, children can speak muthos, too, and often surprise their parents with their truths, innocently spoken. Such is the source of the phrase “Out of the mouths of babes…”

The above are all examples of individual excellence and each serves as an ideal with which we may commune and, in some measure, adopt as our own. Such is the power of the spoken word to uplift and transcend mundane realities. Transcendental words show the ways to greater truths and, thus, touch the Divine with its attendant spirits of inspiration and rapture. Small words from small hearts are mundane. Great words spoken from great hearts evoke greater truths. And, spiritual words from spiritual hearts evoke, invoke, and invite spirituality. The greater the truths conveyed, the more these words ring true and convey the mantle of mythic speech.

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Myths are “True Stories”

What is Myth?

Part 3:  Myths are “True Stories”

This post quote:  “If rationality is only a part of total reality, then it’s probably irrational to expect it to explain all of reality.”

Continuing from “What is Myth? Part 2,” let’s take a quick break for a story.  A very long time ago I heard the following:  Once upon a time there was a man who learned that a spiritual teacher had moved nearby.  Excited, he ran to the teacher and blurted out “What happens after death?  Is there life after death?”  The teacher made no reply.  The man insisted, “Do we live after we die?  Do you go anywhere after you die?”  Again, silence.  The teacher offered no answer to the man’s question and tried to beg off.  The man, persisting, loudly, exclaimed “What happens to you after you die?!”

The teacher stepped away from the man’s presence, looked back, and said:  “Ask your question to someone who is going to die; I am going to live!”

Myths are not only stories, but they are sacred accounts that can reveal our spiritual assumptions about our divine realities.  And, our subset to myth, mythic speech is words that uplift and spiritually transform.  Both myth and mythic speech can bring us clarity.  With clarity comes purpose.

Now, let’s continue our exploration of the meaning of Myth.

Etymology, the root meaning of a word, has always fascinated me.  The hidden jewels of a word’s wealth may be uncovered by contemplating its literal meanings or etymological ancestry.  For example, the word “transcendent” has Latin roots that mean “to step beyond.”  Another, “sacrifice,” also with Latin roots, means “to make sacred.”  In Mythosophy, we suggest that the wisdom gained from myths may help us step beyond present limitations into a greater consciousness.  And, when we sacrifice, we are not just giving; we are giving up a part of ourselves (that which we hold most dear) to clear a space within for the emergence of new consciousness.  Giving is living, literally.  Sacrifice allows transcendence; transcendence brings new awareness; new awareness gives wisdom as it grows into full consciousness.  Giving birth to new consciousness is a sacred activity and we as humans are constantly endeavoring to do so; often unconsciously.

Etymology can help clarify a word’s original sense; its primordial essence.  Similarly, myths can help us understand primordial essences of consciousness.  These we may then choose to adopt.  If Mythosophy is a type of Insight Meditation (or contemplation) on Myth (perhaps, as suggested, a “Vipasanna of Myth”), then what insights may we glean from the etymology of “Myth?”

Myth comes to us from the Latin mythus which is a later form of the earlier Greek muthos. Muthos means “story; report, account, tale.”  But what kind of story?  Myths often appear as a compilation, perhaps a “jumbled heap,” of cultural values deemed crucially important.  Typically, they are authoritative accounts about origins; how the world came to be, humanity’s role, and the ordering of relations with the divine and nature.  Originally, all myths were orally transmitted by experts (poets, bards, etc.).  They were considered absolutely true by the cultures that told them.

If myths are stories, then what about legends, fables, folk tales, and fairy tales?  What are they?  Very briefly, legends are stories with more historical roots.  A very great hero or historical event became legendary in the retelling.  Fables, folk tales, fairy tales tended to be more pure entertainment and, typically, not deemed as important or crucial as myth, but that is not to say that many messages of truth were not also conveyed.  Folklore means “folk wisdom.”

By analogy, if myth is the stage and plot for a theatrical play, then legend, fable, folk tale and fairy tale are characters within the play.  They add more color, drama, and interest, but they exist within the over-arching structure of myth; the plot and theater itself.

As a play presents a point of view, so does myth operate and function.  If mythology is the study of different cultural viewpoints, then a particular body of myths offers and clarifies a specific point of view.

It is correct in mythology, the study of myth, to separate myth from legend, fable, folktale, and fairy tale.  They are different in kind and purpose.   However, in Mythosophy, the wisdom of myth, I refuse to separate them out.  Here’s why.  Most, if not all, story genres were originally transmitted as part of an oral tradition (historically, most societies have been pre-literate).  As such, they were a performance art typically enacted and reenacted at informal gatherings or high ritual occasions.  The experience of all these stories, when properly performed, have the effect of transporting the hearer to another realm.  Additionally, while myth, of itself, is really serious “stuff,” the comparative frivolity of fable, folk tale, and fairy tale still very often involves contact with the divine and the transcendent; that which is beyond this realm.  Thus, many stories that fall well short of the high status of myth should be part of Mythosophy.  In short, story facilitates transcendence.

So, what is the “truth” of the story at the beginning of this post?  I don’t know if the story has a historical basis; I first heard it in conversation many years ago.  Regardless, look at the different emphases within it:  the questioner focuses on direct answers and death; the spiritual teacher, on subtlety and life.  Right, …and?  So?  So, there are limits to reason.  Perhaps, direct answers to certain questions are not rationally accessible, but may be known through “extra-rational, supra-rational, or non-rational” means.  Look at the Buddha’s answers to a similar question about life after death posed by the rationalists; the question, Buddha said, did not apply or “fit the case” to the reality.  The answers to some questions may first require a transformation of being rather than be made to fit into logical categories.  A shift in perspective is needed away from the rational and objective and toward the subjective and “trans-rational” to comprehend an answer.  In our story, the spiritual teacher steps away from rationality (and rudeness).  As the tale portrays a shift in perspective, I suggest that Mythosophy can help us in this transformation; to perceive and express ourselves within the greater truths and ideals of myth.

If rationality is only a part of total reality, then it’s probably irrational to expect it to explain all of reality.

Myth means true story.  So let’s ask “What is my true story?”  Your myth will bring you clarity.  Your clarity will bring you purpose.

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Let’s Jump into Mythosophy

What is Myth?

Part 2: Let’s Jump into Mythosophy

Continuing from “What is Myth? Part 1,” let us move beyond the tools of strict ratiocination and logic to assay truth and into the realm of Mythosophy which involves intuitive perception, spiritual perception, and gnosis.

Here is an example of a myth conveying truth and its mythosophical interpretation.

Proteus. The god Proteus, also known as “the old man of the sea,” had the gift of prophecy and knew all truths, but never willingly divulged his knowledge. He was a shape-shifter who could change form from fire to boar to lion to flood; from stone to serpent to bull and to tree, etc. He would shape-shift to avoid answering questions. He would not speak his truth unless pinned down and held onto whereupon he assumed his original form, an old man, to give true answer. Holding Proteus fast was an extremely difficult task. Our word “protean” was derived from this myth.

Here is a myth that on the surface appears nonsensical. It is certainly a charming story about a magical being from a magical time, but no known present day creature (butterfly notwithstanding) possesses such exact abilities. Let us look deeper.

Who is Proteus? Proteus is a symbol of our human consciousness and its ever-changing qualities. As thoughts flow into feelings, so does feeling flow back into thought. Bodily sensations remind us of associated thoughts, feelings and impressions; physical activities inspire all manner of mood and reverie. When asleep, some of our dreams appear “watery” in their fluid, shifting imagery and themes. Proteus, “the old man of the sea,” is a watery god. Physically, our bodies are largely made up of water (roughly in same proportion to the earth’s surface); we are truly watery beings. Our words, our speech, are the expression of this flowing, shifting foundation of consciousness. We think all of our words truthful, but hindsight, alas, often reveals a mistaken assumption here or there. As our minds, feelings, and bodies are literally protean, so too are we each a Proteus.

A shifting foundation is no foundation at all. The words coming from such a source are a less than reliable expression of absolute truth.

But, when we calm our minds and relax our beings with the tools of contemplation or meditation, we become more stable in consciousness, more grounded. We are less liable to react irrationally or emotionally to triggering events. Our words are more considered as are our thoughts and feelings. When balanced, we are more likely to “speak truly” or express words that “ring true” to a particular situation. We then demonstrate mythic speech.

When we hold ourselves fast, or still, and become less reactive, we are better able to experience clarity; to see and speak forth our clarity. We are better able to express truth and predict outcomes. We can better see and be.

Our human task is to settle down our protean waves of thought, emotion and sensation so we may become clear as a still pond and express our clarity. Our individual clarity is our particular excellence.

In the Buddhist tradition there is a type of meditation called vipassana. Rediscovered by the Buddha from an older tradition, vipassana means “insight into the way things really are.” Hence, Vipassana Meditation is Insight Meditation. While there is a wealth of techniques and practices that make up the Vipassana tradition, I am more interested in the simple idea of “insight.” What I suggest in regard to our exploration of myth is a type of Insight Meditation of Myth, perhaps a “Vipassana of Myth.” Mythosophy, the Wisdom of Myth means that real, living, vibrant truths of consciousness may leap forth or be accessed through reflection, study, meditation and contemplation on the spiritual insights of myth.

Going beyond the body, emotional, mental, and sub-conscious perception and awareness of our reactive selves, let us follow the still, silent voice of our Innermost Being. Let us look for the most uplifting elements in our experience and be so inspired. Applied Mythosophy is theory joined with practice (theoria cum praxi); the joining of myth-wisdom to our everyday lives. It is the marriage of our transcendent “beyond” with our present condition.

Have you ever had a myth “speak” to you?

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Let’s Forget the Scholars

What is Myth?

Part 1: Let’s Forget the Scholars

Myths are stories about divine realities. Encoded within myths are themes of transcendental truths. As a subset, mythic speech comprises words that resonate with truth; words that “ring true.”

Let us dismiss the sense, in common parlance, that myths are mistaken or false explanations and deceptions.

Myths are records of Primordial Traditions and, as such, they defy complete definition. While myths serve many cultural functions I wish to accent their transcendental and Traditionalist components. Myths are considered absolutely true by their sources.

Defining myth has bedeviled western scholars since at least the 19th century. From Frazer’s ritual theory to Malinowski’s Functionalism; from Freud’s and Jung’s psychological interpretations to Levi-Strauss’ Structuralism; no one theory appears to adequately encompass all of myth (see attached Addendum below for more examples). While a number of theories or schools have been advanced, none completely define myth. Each view falls short of a comprehensive definition. Whenever myth is defined there seems to be a “something more” quality or remainder that falls outside the definition. Myth defies absolute definition.

Let us set aside the scholarly pursuit of a complete definition of myth except to agree with those who conclude that myths are a rough composite of all definitions. In other words, each attempt at definition contributes some essential insight into the nature of myth. Let us acknowledge academia’s good work in contributing to our understanding of myth, offer thanks, and give it no further notice. Let us move beyond the academic debate.

I won’t pursue a scholarly exercise that exhaustively defines myth. Rather, I prefer to develop a “spiritual exercise that looks at myth as a way to access personal meaning through revelation.” Let us, therefore, treat myth as a comprehensible code of spiritual conditions.

Addendum: More Definitions of Myth

Among many more attempts to define myth, a very rough, partial sketch follows: E. B. Tylor suggested myths were the pre-scientific explanations of natural phenomena. Max Muller advocated a linguistic theory in which all myths involved a “disease of language.” The nature of this malady was the reification of an abstract quality into a concrete one; adjectives describing a natural event became personified into a god or goddess. James G. Frazer advanced the view that myths arose to explain rituals. Malinowski posited a Functional theory of myth in which the purpose of myth was legitimization of the social order. Mircea Eliade posited the primacy of myth over ritual and that the retelling of myths allowed a return (“eternal return”) for the hearer to primordial realities. Levi-Strauss advocated the Structuralist view of myth as a process of resolution between interacting and opposing themes. Freud, in analyzing the myth of Oedipus, thought myth was about sexual anxiety and, more broadly, that myths were the dreams of a society. Jung posited that myths were the record of a culture’s collective unconsciousness exhibited through cross-cultural archetypes. Joseph Campbell sometimes used Jungian terminology, but at other times seemed more transcendental (not related to the 19th century American Transcendental movement). Very much earlier, the Greek theorist Euhemerus suggested that myths were poor recollections of actual historical persons and events. In the retelling, a story became increasingly inaccurate, but was based in a factual event in the past. Gods and goddesses, for example, were actually historical persons of great achievement.

The above list does no justice to each scholar, but perhaps suggests the futility of attempting a rigorous, exhaustive definition of myth. There have been many more attempts to so define myth.

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What is Mythosophy?

Myths are popularly treated as deceptions best exposed and dismissed.  The statement “His version of the incident was a myth” means that a mistaken or misleading story has been proffered.

What, really, are myths?

This blog will attempt to resurrect the tarnished image of myth and restore a primordial conception of what myth means.  A viewpoint will be developed of what myths can mean for us personally.  In a world bereft of meaning, can myths provide answers?

Can myth serve to inspire and uplift?  Mythosophy means “the wisdom of myth.”

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