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?