Saturday, 11 October 2008

The reading of myth

Got this on a email this morning.

Ten Commandments for Reading Myth

Joseph Campbell

1. Read myths with the eyes of wonder:
the myths transparent to their universal meaning,
their meaning transparent to its mysterious source.

2. Read myths in the present tense: Eternity is now.

3. Read myths in the first person plural: the Gods and Goddesses
of ancient mythology still live within you.

4. Any myth worth its salt exerts a powerful magnetism.
Notice the images and stories that you are drawn to and repelled by.
Investigate the field of associated images and stories

5. Look for patterns; don't get lost in the details.
What is needed is not more specialized scholarship,
but more interdisciplinary vision. Make connections;
break old patterns of parochial thought.

6. Resacralize the secular:
even a dollar bill reveals the imprint of Eternity.

7. If God is everywhere, then myths can be generated anywhere,
anytime, by anything. Don't let your Romantic aversion to
science blind you to the Buddha in the computer chip.

8. Know your tribe! Myths never arise in a vacuum;
they are the connective tissue of the social body
which enjoys synergistic relations with
dreams (private myths) and rituals (the enactment of myth).

9. Expand your horizons! Any mythology worth remembering
will be global in scope. The earth is our home
and humankind is our family.

10. Read between the lines! Literalism kills;
Imagination quickens.

I have not yet read Joseph Campbell, although many, including those closest to me, have. I must, however, have absorbed his thinking through some sort of osmosis since the above list describes the exact way I try to read myth. Myths are not literal history and to read them as such leads to great danger. The history of the Abrahamic religions is ample evidence of this.

I had read little about Inanna until relatively few years ago. Then, a few days after I initiated as Priest of Avalon in Glastonbury, I had a dream in which she appeared and said, "I want you to tell my story". Which meant that I had to read it - so I bought "Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth" by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. From the first reading I was hooked and remain so.

For I found so much to feed my curiosity and stimulate my imagination. In the story of the "me" (the sacred attributes of power and civilisation), for example, we are told of fear, treachery and deceit as among those things given to her, during a night of flirtatiousness on her part and heavy drinking on his, by Enki, the god of wisdom. The list goes on, with enigmatic references to other "minor" characters, such as her servant Ninshubur, whose roles in the stories are often pivotal.

Now, as I am writing this, I feel Her very close to me. I started this post this morning and all day I have felt a lightness of heart. Lately, I had begun to feel doubtful and a little afraid - worried that I will not last the month financially. Today, however, this does not seem an issue. I have food today. I am certainly not the only person with financial worries at the moment.

For me, Inanna speaks now. She speaks of the world which denies and seeks to control our sexuality. She is those who stand and say "this is who I am". She is those who show that they can weep and they can laugh - that they can hurt and that they can rejoice. She is those who walk, step by frightened step, into the unknown world, into the labyrinth of the underworld, to meet and embrace their full being. She is the force of life. She iz Kundalini, she is Shakti and she is Kali. She is there among those who fall and are reviled as she is among those who triumph and are lauded. She is human courage in the face of the unknown and defiance of limitation. She is all that and more. She is the Goddess of Total Being. She is that image of femaleness that does not apologise for being who she is. She is proud and She is fierce. Yet She is tender and She is loving. She is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and to fundies of all denominations, she is The Whore of Babylon and the enemy of the sterile saints whose desire is for a world beyond this. For a world where the messiness of bodies and of emotion is no more.

She is the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The world beyond/before duality. She is a memory of the Goddess of the time before the victory of the patriarchs. She lives today in the people, women and men, who say "NO!- I will no longer live by the rules of fear but will seek my own true and live by that alone".

For we are all different and each has her or his own gifts. The "mes" are the skills of all who comprise human community - including the tricksters and storytellers, the actors and the shamans. Every true voice is valuable. Truth is not a monolith to be defended by restriction and censorship, but what emerges when all voices are heard. For we are wonderful in our diversity. I may not like some people just as I may not like some foods. But that does not mean, except to my ego, that I am more worthy than they.

And here it is my ego that is the danger. The I AM that claims my truth as universal. It is only mine. It has been difficult at times to remember this, but all I am is a man. With dreams, visions and an occasional inner voice. Sometimes I am noble and a other times craven. That is all. And I am glad to be alive.

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