What does it mean to live a life from your own mythology? Why does it matter? With such questions, I invite you to the experience of one quantum leap after another to expand your strength, creativity and joy. Each one of us comes into this world with a unique mythology. The more conscious you become of the myth or myths by which, long ago, you chose to live your life, the sooner you will realize who you really are, what gifts you bring, what values you cherish and how you can best turn dreams into realities as you walk this earth in a human body. The road to discovering the mythology by which you live may well be the most exciting and empowering experience you’ll ever have.
WHAT IS A MYTH?
First let’s be clear about what myth and mythology are NOT. In the English language, few words have been more grossly perverted than these two. In daily parlance they are wrongly taken to mean something that is untrue. In fact, mythologies and myths are stories of a very powerful kind which reveal profound truths. They put our conscious mind in touch with feeling states that lie deep within us. Like fine poetry, a mythological story can never be accessed or understood by the linear, analytical thinking that epitomizes the postmodern mechanical thinking. The worldview we have inherited contends that we we live in an arbitrary, meaningless universe devoid of spirit. I suspect this is the main reason the meaning of myth has become so corrupted.
PORTAL TO NEW REALITIES
In truth, a myth is a metaphor. The word comes from French métaphore, via Latin from Greek metaphora, from metapherein which means “to transfer.” A metaphor transfers meaning by pointing to an experience which, by its very nature, transcends all human categories of intellectual thought. Any metaphor acts as a portal to the awareness of an archetypal realm of experience. It is transparent to states of expanded consciousness and can be “known” only through your body and your intuitive senses.
In its simplest form, a myth is a special tale that can be told ten thousand times in a thousand ways without losing its power. It is a tale which will be received differently by everyone who hears it. Yet it always carries an archetypal hook, able to grab our imagination by the throat and awaken the knowingness deep within each of us.
Joseph Campbell, one of my personal heroes, puts it another way: "Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour. The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale—as the flavor of the ocean is contained in a droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea,” he says. “For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured. They cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. Myths are spontaneous productions of the psyche, and each bears within it undamaged the germ power of its source." Myths live forever in our hopes, dreams and relationships.
Mythological images are the means by which conscious awareness is put in touch with creative energies that drive our lives from the deepest levels of our being. When we are out of touch with them in our lives, or if we choose to deny them or pay no attention to them, we become separated from the core of our being and can find ourself in a state of confusion or despair. By contrast, a mythology that we become aware of, which fires us, is one by which we can be guided to live our lives with purpose and fulfillment. So how do we discover what mythological impulses and values inhabit the deepest regions of our psyche? Childhood usually holds the key. Now is the time for you to ask the question, “By what myth have I been living my life?”
CHILDHOOD HOLDS A KEY
There was a moment in Carl Jung’s life when he realized what it was to live with a mythology, and what it was to live without one. When he asked himself by what mythology he was living, he found he didn’t know. Despite his much-celebrated successes, Jung had come to feel that his work until then had all been based on an intellectual understanding of the mind. As many of us do, he realized that he climbed to the top of a ladder only to discover it had been placed against the wrong wall.
In his late thirties at the time, Jung asked himself a question: “What was it that fascinated me, what was it that I most loved doing as a boy whenever they left me alone and let me play?” He remembered that what he had loved most was making buildings and cities out of small stones. He decided that, having now grown up, what he would do was play with big stones. He bought a piece of land on the lake across from Zurich. Then he planned and constructed a house. As he worked with his hands, he allowed his thoughts free run in the imaginal realms. Soon he was dreaming rich dreams. He recorded them using words and images in a journal while mythic riches from deep within his soul continued to break through into conscious awareness.
FASCINATION AND BLISS
Before long, he understood that the dreams he had been recording resonated with great mythic themes that he had been studying while working on his book, Symbols of Transformation. He began to paint mandalas which he found acted as gateways to greater self-discovery. The connections forged by entering the mythic level of your being invariably bring us a sense of zeal, fascination and bliss. It connects us ever more deeply with our own creativity. Sooner or later it also prompts us to share our creative gifts with the world.
If we are willing to look back in silence, without judgment, to our own childhood, we often discover a myth which we either are living or are meant to be living, even though we have long remained unaware of it. Often we discover that, at a young age, we sensed what we intended to do with our life in years to come.
DISCOVERING MY OWN TRUTHS
I remember that at the age of five I had an argument with my maternal grandmother about marriage and children. She was trying to explain to me that, when you get older, you need to find someone to love. Then you got married in a white dress, and you ate a beautiful white cake. This meant, she said, that later you would be able to have children. I was an archetypal tomboy, hated dolls, loved climbing trees and playing football. Yet even at that age I knew that I wanted children when I grew up. Her description of the white dress and the wedding cake sounded dreadful to me. “Ugh,” I said, “I hate cake. I don’t ever want to be married.” Surprised at the vehemence of my reply, she patiently explained to me that the wedding was a necessary prelude to having children. I knew there and then that she was lying. Our Siamese cat, Babette, had given birth to lots of children and she had never been married.
So ended the discussion. One day, years later, having brought four children by four different men into the world and raised them all on my own, I would remember that conversation. It surprised me. How, I asked myself, could I possibly have known that I would live out the clear intention held by the five-year-old me which, in the interim, had lain sleeping in the dark, somewhere deep within my psyche?
Like Jung, when we are children we often have a strong sense about who we will become and what we are going to do when we grow up, based on a myth or passion that fires our soul. Usually this “knowing” gets submerged beneath what “they” tell us we are supposed to do or be. Schools, advertisers, religion, well-meaning (or sometimes not so well-meaning) adults “educate” us. They tell us it is better to drive around in a shiny car than to live the life of a hobo. Personally, even as a kid, I was quite sure that given a choice between such options, I would prefer to be a hobo. As for having children and raising them on my own, this had definitely been on my agenda.
Even though we may travel down many roads that lead to dead ends in our life, when we look back to childhood we often find that a particular myth or myths hidden deep within a part of us have been directing our life all along. They may even have been the power which, each time we’ve gone down a meaningless road, has drawn us back to our center asking us to reconnect with what we most love, and providing the power to create the life we want to live.
YOUR UNIQUE MYTHOLOGY
Discovering by what myth or myths you are living your own life leads down two parallel roads which eventually join. They take you deeper and deeper into what is the most important process of all: Forging connections with the core of your being and calling forth your own unique, creative power so that it is expressed in every area of your life both for your highest good and for the highest good of all.
Coming to experience the power of mythology as a living archetype and diving in to the wondrous mythic realms fuels the creative process within you. It helps you discover, as Jung did, the mythology by which you have been living your own life. Once you begin to see this, you can ask the question, “Does this bring me delight, energy, freedom and belief in my own creative gifts? Does this story help me live out my deepest desires and purpose, or not?”
IN CHALLENGING TIMES
Ask yourself this: If I were faced with a situation of total disaster, if everything I held most dear to my heart and all of my loved ones disappeared, if the life I’ve been living were devastated, what would I live for? What could sustain me? How would I come to know that, despite all the challenges, I could go on living instead of throwing in the towel and letting myself fall into an abyss of impassability and fear? Now is the time to begin exploring the realms of mythology and find out. A revelatory way of looking back at your life, if you have kept a journal or a diary, is to read through some of the entries you have made into it in past years. You are likely to find that some of what you believe you have only recently come to understand. You are also likely to discover that what was important to you long ago still is.
RECORD YOUR DREAMS
Such revelations can help you identify some of the driving themes of your own life—the destiny that you, most likely, unwittingly chose for your life although you did not know it. So, keep a journal. Carry it with you wherever you go. Record in it your dreams, your longings, your conscious choices and the choices that life seems to make for you without any conscious choice on your part. Continue to ask yourself, “Does the myth by which I appear to be living fire me with a sense of wonder and excitement?” If so, great... just keep on going. If not, how do I begin to uncover the mythology deep within me that will?
I would love to hear from you about your own experiences in answer to the question: “What mythology guides your life?”