Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Yesterday* was a milestone day for Myth and Culture. After being online for 3 years, we hit a record high of 6,702 hits in one day, bringing the to-date total for the month of April to 103,972 hits and 10,589 visits!!!!! There is still one more day before I can tally April's statistics, but this is truely astounding to see a website about mythology and archetypal psychology getting such traffic. It gives me hope that perhaps there is truly a desire for a depth perspective in the world and that the way to build awareness and create an audience of this kind of material is in fact the World Wide Web.
But why study mythology? Why spend hours and hours on a website that still has not made any money? Perhaps the soul of the Western World is the soul of money as Wolfgang Giergerich explains, but soul-making for me is about the primal "stuff" of life, retold as healing fictions - both in culture and in the individual psyche.
One of my favorite mythologists, Karl Kerényi calls mythology, the “movement” of primal material, the telling of tales already well know, but amenable to a new shaping, a new transformation (Science of Mythology 2). Mythology, writes Kerényi, is the mythoi (story) and the legein (telling). Storytelling connects narrator and audience and fills the participants with images that seize hold of the soul (Gods of the Greeks 3-4). These fluid images live within the context of a culture’s psyche, transforming even as the cultural need transforms. It is this ability to adapt and transform according to cultural dreams and nightmares that makes the telling of myths both wondrous and dangerous. It is dangerous because such primal images can be manipulated within a cultural context and thus the culture itself can be manipulated. It is wondrous because it is in the re-telling of stories that individual and cultural wounds find their healing.
James Hillman’s work on the fictional and mythological nature of the psyche confirms my approach to mythology as a re-telling of old stories in new forms. “Depth psychology believes in myth, practices myth, teaches myth”, writes Hillman, but not in a literal way (Oedipus 100-101). It is the remythologizing of the stories that becomes important, the retelling of tales in a new fiction where healing occurs. Mythopoieses is therapy and therapy is the creation of fictional works based on old primal forms. The difference between sanity and madness for Hillman depends on our sense of fiction (Healing 111). This is the ability to de-literalize the stories of our wounds and our wounding, to create a new story about our lives based not on our factional biographies, but rather on our fictional images. The poetic must become our practical reality, the positive or positing fixes, our insanities (112). “The act of turning to imagination is not an act of introspection,” Hillman postulates, “it is a negative capacity, a willful suspension of belief in them [our characters] and of belief in oneself as their author” (59).
We are not the authors of the story, we are the re-tellers, the ones who once more take up the ancient myths and through our imaginations, make those stories our own. This website is dedicated to the re-tellers of tales. In a time of darkness and decomposition, I am beginning to believe that we are on the edge of a great blossoming. Hillman writes:
Building the psychic vessel of containment, which is another way of speakng of soul-making, seems to require bleeding and leaking as its precondition. Why else go through that work unless we are driven by the despair of our unstoppered condition? The shift from anima-mess to anima-vessel shows in various ways: as a shift from weakness and suffering to humility and sensitivity; from bitterness and complaint to a taste for salt and blood; from focus upon the emotional pain of a wound - its causes, permieters, cures - to its imaginal depths; from displacements of the womb onto women and "feminity" to its locus in one's own bodily rhythm (Blue Fire 161).
Perhaps this latest wounding in life is in fact the opening to something new - new potentialities, new possibilities. Perhaps the reason Myth and Culture is beginning to thrive is that it is time for a new blossoming. Perhaps we will begin to see some of the flowers soon. We have only to imagine.
*essay is a reprint from its first publication through mythandculture.com Wednesday April 30, 2003. reprinted with the kind permission of Doug Macary and Martin Macary co-executors for the estate of Maggie Macary, Ph.D