Make Life a Mythic Journey
“myth in an honorific sense is an energy-charged image, or idea, that has the power to move and direct the soul hopefully in ways that link us more deeply to the mysteries of the cosmos, of nature, of relationship, and of self.”
—-James Hollis, What Matters Most (p. 159)
I read an article last week in The New York Times (April 12, 2013) on the origins of the universe called, “Front Row at the Dawn of Time.” It described how two scientists had been able to develop “a baby picture of the universe” (see image) from the background radiation from the Big Bang. It looked to me, given the season, like a magical Easter egg, but to one of the Nobel-award winning scientists it was “like staring at the ‘face of God.’” For this scientist this was the myth—the image, according to the Jungian James Hollis, that clearly provides that pantheistic link “to the mysteries of the cosmos” and beyond that to the Self, our island or container of the Jungian imago Dei or God image.
Hollis also says, “that each of us is obliged to construct our own myth” (p. 127). I knew that for Jung his “personal myth” emerged out of a dream where he was in Liverpool and found “a small island [that] blazed with sunlight” in the midst of “dimly lit darkness” (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp. 197-199). On the island “stood a single tree” that seemed to be “the source of light.” For Jung this was “a vision of unearthly beauty” that gave his life “orientation and meaning.” I wondered what would be my myth?
In my talk “The Third Half of Life: The Spiritual Imperative” (see blog) I had ended with a poem based on a mythic image that I’d experienced first-hand during a visit to, the appropriately named, Valley of the Gods. This is the poem:
Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
—-Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1959, p. 418)
Amidst the brutal beauty of The Valley of the Gods
you travel on the path of the ancient ones.
It is a pilgrimage paying homage
to massive, crimson stone monoliths.
Do not bow down; do not worship them as idols.
They are your guardians–spiritual markers
of an ineffable force that speaks an eternal language
as they lift you upward in an azure embrace.
Amidst the brutal beauty of the unscrolled desert
you walk between light and dark; awe and anxiety;
love and loss; faith and fear; spirit and serpent.
A power of timeless unity caresses your being.
This is the place where you are lost;
where you must wander; where you must call out
for redemption, renewal, resurrection.
Amidst the brutal beauty of the empty wilderness
you will find the hidden trail. It is the path
to Mt. Sinai; it is the path to the Mount of Olives;
it is the path to Mecca. It is the path of paths
that all must take. It beckons to you.
For only here amidst the brutal beauty
can you at last find your self.
In my meditations on this image I see a white-haired man with a flowing white beard dressed in a white robe striding through the landscape with a long wood walking stick. The man looks like Leonardo and is clearly my archetypal image of the Wise Old Man. This is my personal myth of the poet-priest traversing the primeval path to God.
I hope this will inspire you to find your own image of the myth that leads you down the path to spirituality.
Paul Marshall Wortman
April 14, 2013