(Originally published July 20, 2015 at Mythosophy.org)
Contemplative Practices: Thinking Mythically
Part 1: Thinking Mythically
Today’s Quote: “It isn’t that we shouldn’t worship idols; we must. We must worship these images in order break through them and move to the truth and freedom beyond.”
Quote #2: “An idol is a frozen Ideal.”
Mythosophy is a contemplative path via the Wisdom of Myth.
To date, I have expressed much theory in presenting Mythosophy, yet theory must always be balanced with practice. The Greek word theoria means (in Eastern Orthodox Christianity) to “view God.” A contemplative practice, then, would be practicing this divine viewpoint.
Theory is fine, but as we know “practice makes perfect.” Practice is the completion of our inner vision; its realization.
Mythosophy as a practical teaching tool is a contemplative viewpoint on the cultural stories of myth, fable, legend and stories of our own personal lives. Included as a vital part of this Contemplative Path are the words a culture uses to express its highest ideals and our personal words we use to express our current, evolving Ideals.
To the extent that our own words and stories are spiritual, is the extent we uplift ourselves and others. Observe that when uplifted, we often breathe more deeply and freely.
The True Man breathes with his heels; the mass of men breathe with their throats.” (Taoism, Chuang Tzu, chapter 6)
Our lives can be enlightened through “thinking mythically.” What does this mean? Let’s illustrate through one of Aesop’s fables:
“The Man and the Wooden God.”
“In the old days men used to worship sticks and stones and idols, and prayed to them to give them luck. It happened that a Man had often prayed to a wooden idol he had received from his father, but, his luck never seemed to change. He prayed and he prayed, but still he remained as unlucky as ever. One day in the greatest rage he went to the Wooden God, and with one blow swept it down from its pedestal. The idol broke in two, and what did he see? An immense number of coins flying all over the place.”
Many of Aesop’s fables have a concluding moral or homily, but this fable does not (which is helpful to my purpose). Often the concluding moral statement is a distracter from the spiritual message working through the story. You can sense this by noting your intuitive reactions to the fable and the moral. The two are often “out of phase.” The sense of wonder evoked by many of the fables is replaced by a “Huh, that’s it?” response to the moral. The moral is sometimes apt, but more often non sequitur or so commonplace as to be almost not worth stating. It is as if they were arbitrarily added to the fables as an afterthought.
Perhaps these “morals of the story” were used to cloak or hide the true nature of these fables from the powerful and unenlightened. Parables and their authors needed protection because messages of true spiritual transformation were (and are) revolutionary.
What does this fable mean? Is it an obvious tale about ignorant practices? What do you perceive?
Relax, take one or several deep breaths and muse; let us think mythically. Let us contemplate the story. Allow the randomness of your intuition and the playfulness of your imagination hold sway. Muse with your being; don’t think with your mind. Perceive as a spiritual being.
What I see is a story pregnant with meaning. It has to do with a changed state of consciousness. The Man was stuck in an old, worn out consciousness, worshiping capricious luck through an object that was literally up on a pedestal. It was given by his father. One consequence of placing things on pedestals is that we lower ourselves in comparison. When we idolize we tend to diminish our own self worth.
When we, in reverence or piety, subordinate ourselves to any given image or idol, we abandon our birthright as children of God. Honoring a truth should never mean that we so demote ourselves that we suffer spiritual harm. Making ourselves subject to an idol (subject to an object) is one way we lose our creativity.
Also, when we worship, we project divinity into the adored image. The paradox is that it is our divinity we give to an image that makes it into an idol. We then fool ourselves into believing that divinity exists apart from ourselves. Thus are idols created and we can unwittingly enter into their servitude.
By breaking the idol, the divine image, Aesop’s “Man” is no longer in a dependent relationship and is now free to step into greater consciousness. This is symbolized by the coins flowing forth; his new found wealth, a new independent consciousness. This was the true gift from his father. With new consciousness comes renewed creativity and freedom.
It isn’t that we shouldn’t worship idols; we must. We must worship these images in order break through them and move to the truth and freedom beyond.
Our worshipful stance is as much in our nature as is our genetic makeup. It is part of who we are. An idol is just an image made holy. Let us move beyond that which we idolize and break through the limitations of our ideal images. We must move beyond our present images of the divine to grow. We must “break” these images and evolve through them and beyond them. It is in our nature, for example, to worship the beautiful, but we are not to remain fixed our entire lives with the same, unchanging Ideal of beauty. Our image of beauty will change as we evolve.
An idol is a frozen Ideal. An idol is an Ideal whose symbolic creativity has been made static and inaccessible. Removing creativity from our Ideals turns them into our idols. Paradoxically, it is our creativity that manifests this. This is why idols must be smashed or broken.
“O human, your heart is full of idols. …take an ax of love and faith and break the idols inside you.” (Sufism, from Rumi and his Sufi Path of Love by Citlak and Bingul)
Our current viewpoints must change as we move through our lives. If they do not evolve, then we remain stuck and cease growing. Our consciousness stops unfolding.
We are to look for the highest and realize what we can. In the game of baseball, we swing for the fences, but gratefully accept hitting a single or a double.
Thinking mythically allows us the flexibility and creative freedom to perceive transcendentally, learn spiritual messages from our idols, and then break those same sacred images in our ever evolving path to greater truth. Living the transcendental life is realizing our highest Ideals.
I do this via some contemplative practices or exercises that help facilitate “thinking mythically.” And please remember, by thinking I really mean musing: our imaginative and intuitive perception that playfully illuminates an ideal. Thinking mythically is contemplative musing upon an image of God.
In review, today’s Contemplative Practice is to take one or several deep clearing breaths and then lightly muse over what you really worship or honor in your life. If you want to move beyond this image, then find a way; create your way. If you do not, then you may wish to further explore the depths and extent of this Ideal Image until time ripens for your next step.
It’s all about divine creativity; your freedom, your birthright. It is thus that humans were created in the image of God; to imagine and create.
Mythosophy is the practice of the presence of God developed out of my own experience.
You can do this, too.