Imagination Applied to Life
I am guided by a signal from the heavens
I am guided by this birthmark on my skin
I am guided by the beauty of our weapons
First, we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
"First We Take Manhattan," Leonard Cohen (1988)
9 September 2009
With some reticence, I am introducing a new category to metahistory.org, making a total of 13 buttons. Planetary Tantra stands as a separate and autonomous site within the main site.
As a student and successor of the leading comparative mythologists of the 20th Century, Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade, I consider it my responsibility to teach what Campbell called "creative mythology," which might also be called applied mythology, or mythics. Physics is knowledge of the laws of nature, esthetics, knowledge of the laws of beauty, ethics, knowledge of moral values. In the same vein, mythics is knowledge of the narrative power of imagination as revealed in myths, legends, archetypes, themes and plots. But not just knowledge, not just passive understanding. Just as physics, esthetics, and ethics can all be applied to life, and put into action in a wide range of expressions, so can mythics.
The material in this category, linked from this portal page, will be of two kinds. First, MYTHS IN PROGRESS proposes the revision of received myths by specific examples, starting with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Second, it will present some comments, guidelines, and cautionary notes on the practice of living myth as a method of self-direction. In the latter material, I would like to make clear my reticence toward the self-assumed duty to teach the directive power of imagination, and explain why I have waited over seven years to offer this final, conclusive category of metahistory.org.
jll: Andalucia 9/9/09.
MYTHS IN PROGRESS
Orpheus and Eurydice - A Myth Rewritten
Part One: The Return of Eurydice
Part Two: The Beauty of Goodbye
Part Three: The Flight of the Black Swan
Translations from the Andromedan
An Alternative Myth of Human Origins and Gender Conflict
Preface by the Translator
C O N T E N T S
Tree-Nymphs and Tree-Hung Shamans
I The Myth of Adonis
II The Chthonian Romance
III The Nature of Consciousness
INTRODUCTION TO LIVING MYTH
§ 1 The Use and Misuse of Creative Mythology
Toward the end of his life, comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904 - 1987) filmed a six-part series for the American TV station PBS entitled "The Power of Myth," consisting of interviews with liberal journalist, Bill Moyers. Widely regarded as a general public guru—a mythological maven, you could say—Campbell was also known for having advised Steven Spielberg and George Lucas on the plot for their projected multi-film epic, Star Wars. He provided the directive theme of the entire Star Wars serialization by proposing a story line based on the cosmic battle between Good and Evil, Light and Dark, Ohrmazd and Ahriman, drawn from Persian mythology.
With all due respect, I must say that I think Campbell made a poor choice in this matter. Spielberg and Lukas were ill-advised and the result is, Stars Wars is little more than overblown juvenile entertainment from start to finish. The entire story is hokey, hackneyed, trite. Worst of all, the plot does not carry the kind of inspirational power that could effectively guide humanity toward a sane path of development. On the contrary, it endorses a duualistic myth that fits the victim-perpetrator bond. In Not in His Image I warned against Persian single source duality, by contrast to two-source duality as seen in the Sophia myth:
Gnostic cosmology is dualistic, but not in the same way as the cosmology of Zoroaster—Persian duality... The religious doctrine of Persian duality, absorbed by the Hebrews during the Babylonian Captivity, posits the opposition of Good (Ahura Mazda) versus Evil (Ahriman) at the cosmic level. This is absolute duality. It assumes a split in the Godhead, in the divine realm, at the one source of all that exists.... It may be called single-source duality because it assumes that good and evil have the same origin, due to a split at the source, in the Godhead—an idea flatly refuted by Gnostics. In their protest against Christianity, Gnostics opposed Christian theology and dualist ethics based on the Jewish notion of a wrathful, punishing father god who was also, believe it or not, the source of divine love.
Split-source duality is not what the Sophia mythos presents, however. It is of the utmost importance to distinguish Persian split-source duality from the two-source duality of Gnostic teachings. In the Gnostic view there is no split in the Pleroma and consequently there is no absolute opposition of Good and Evil. In fact, Gnostics did not characterize the problem posed by the Archons in terms of evil at all. They framed it in terms of error. They taught that we come to understand how evil arises in the world by tracing the working of error, the Archontic factor. (Ch. 13, The Passion of Sophia)
Campbell's choice of a directive myth for the movie epic steers us right back into Biblical dualism and the Old Testament mythology of the Father God, represented by inversion in the figure of Darth Vader (Ahriman). The father-son motif linking Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader presents yet another hook into divine paternalism—just where we don't want to go, in my opinion.
Worst of all, Star Wars does not incorporate any genuine elements of the Divine Feminine—Princess Lea is, as best, an Valentine Card goddess figure—and says nothing about the natural beauty or supernatural mystique of our planet. It does not reveal anything about the origin of our species, the intelligence embodied in nature, our bond to other sentient species, the deviance of the artificial or archontic mind-set, or the unique but not superior status of humanity in the cosmic order. It teaches nothing but glorified paternalism and singtle source duality, Cosmic Good versus Cosmic Evil, the basis of salvationist religion.
Imaginatively speaking, the entire Star Wars sequence was a tired rerun before it was even made.
In the first commentary on Living Myth, I am leading with this negative judgment of Stars Wars. I take it for an outstanding example of a misuse of the creative mythology that Campbell proposed and outlined, but did not put into practice himself, either professionally or (as far as I know) personally. My criticism of the master's choice in this regard will also give occasion to introduce what I consider to be the primary directive myths of humanity that might serve in leading our species toward a sane, enlightened way of life.
jll: Andalucia 9/9/09