Myth as a Map

TUNNELOFLIGHTMyths are public dreams and dreams are private myths.  
Joseph Campbell

Mysticism is at the heart of mythology and indeed Reality itself. Myth without mysticism is merely an ideology—an intellect-driven illusion leading to the disintegration of a society. A healthy myth would provide a satisfying worldview for those contained within it, it would be a “living myth” a profound and authentic story. P-B is not a living myth. It is a dead and poisonous story. Hence, both our lives and our dreams fail to nurture us or lead us in a healthy direction.

Mythology is the language of the True self speaking to the persona, the false self. Our personal unconscious or shadow contains content rejected by the community into which we were born. The magnitude of our shadow is directly related to the degree that we failed to conform to the beliefs, attitudes and values of our community. It is this shadow “material” that we project onto individuals and groups “out there.” Our dreams or we should say “nightmares” originate in the personal unconscious. These few principles will be repeated along with others again and again in the context of Simple Reality. It is not enough to understand them intellectually—they must be internalized—they must become a part of our identity.

Finding meaning in American culture is not like looking for a needle in a haystack, it is in fact looking for a needle that is not there. Life in P-B America is a constant and fruitless search for Truth and Beauty. As sports fan Stephen Marche says, “Stadiums are full of people like me, carrying their hidden fears and struggles to games in the hope of seeing a story unfold that will help them deal with life.”  In other words we will not find our new myth or the map that will get us headed in the right direction in the same activities we use to escape our suffering.

Nor has religion provided the answer, the nurturing story for humanity, although theologians, philosophers and atheists can get desperate in rationalizing how faith is or is not the answer. Kierkegaard would have said that Stephen Marche’s inability to find meaning at the stadium is good because it would leave him no choice but to seek meaning in “total faith.” “This radically Christian idea was the root of atheistic existentialism. For Sartre, the collapse of meaning produced what he called nausea.”  Both Kierkegaard and Sartre were looking in Marche’s haystack.

Fabius, the Roman general felt that results are the teachers of fools. We are preoccupied with the “results” of having, doing and knowing, mistaking diligence itself for the needles in the illusory haystack (much ado about nothing).  Americans are not fools and results will indeed teach us the meaning of life which are the answers to the Three Great Questions but only in the proper context, P-A, the haystack that does indeed contain the needle. It would help to have a map of the haystack, a diagram giving the location of the needle. The Hero’s Journey is such a map.

We have all learned how useful a map can be, maybe even a life-saver, provided, of course, that the map is accurate, that there is a correspondence between the map in our hand and the lay of the land at our feet. So is there a map of the metaphysical terrain that we as inveterate hikers can use?

Yes there is, but before we answer that question we need to be aware that all of us have been using a P-B map to steer our ship of life so far – shifting our metaphor from land to sea to accustom ourselves to all sorts of conditions. We are probably not aware that we are using this aforementioned map or that it is not a good map. In fact, for most of us, this map, this chart, has no relationship to the reality of our experience whatsoever. We would do just as well standing at the helm blindfolded. If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that our ship has sailed into violent seas and reef-laden channels, and made land-fall on some of the most wretched and miserable coastal lands possible.

And yet, in our back pocket, so to speak, neatly folded is the ideal map (P-A), the map that we need, the map that corresponds perfectly to the seven seas of our life’s voyage. We must choose to get it out, unfold it, and learn to read it before it will be of any use. Spread it out: the map of inner wisdom, the map labeled Simple Reality.


References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I?  The First Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality.
Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival.


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