Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Myth Makers

When we think about the traditions that have preceded us in our lives, I think we tend to look up to these as established, sometimes even larger-than-life figures.  Myths, which are ancient, are like this.  They get told against a background of high-flying images that capture and engage our imaginations.  We have centaurs, gods who change forms as in Greek myths, and a vast panoply of images and beings that express all kinds of aspects of who and what we are.  In a way religions are a bit like this in how they get stuck or are installed in our sense of the collective awareness of humankind. We often think of these as always having been, and yet, each one of them has at one time or another, been entirely created out of thin air. 

Before centaurs, there were no centaurs.  Before Leda and the Swan, there was no Leda and there was no swan.  Before Jesus, there was no Christianity.  So all of these institutions and myths and legends have all been created from us.  Some would say that Jesus was a real man, and to those of you who have recognized this, I would heartily agree.  But if you look closely even at Jesus in art over the centuries, you will see a changing face.  For example, did you know that when Byzantine art was at its apex, Jesus looked very different from what he looks like in our depictions today.  Jesus actually had no beard in these images.  Only later did Jesus show up as having a beard.  Why?  The answer has to do with how we invest images with meaning, and this is just how myths are in fact made.  So one culture who sees wise people as taking the time to shave their beards and remain clean-shaven, will naturally create images of their wise people as clean-shaven.  This was certainly the case in the example of Byzantine art that I just gave.  But that image changed.  Many times, in fact.  Jesus, today, is often depicted as a white anglo-saxon looking gentleman in white robes. This version was created by the very people that he wound up looking like.  If we were honest, Jesus would have been much darker skinned.  This is an act of creation, and I say that we need to keep all of our stories and institutions fresh so we know how to relate to them.  It's just how we are. 

So at some point, everything we see in our culture was created.  It came THROUGH us.  Even magnificent books were themselves created through our hands.  Even the bible.  There is this joke that Moses wrote the bible, and while its funny, it still points to our tendency to want to invest people with the authority of having gotten the message straight from God or some other deity.  Moses probably was a good listener.  He was also likely a mystic, otherwise he never would have discovered the means to hear God speaking to him when everyone else was obviously unaware of anyone speaking.  Some want to think that God came to him as though a being outside of himself as evidenced in the burning bush experience and other instances where he heard God speak to him. But if God did this, why weren't there stories of how others heard who were in close proximity?  the truth here is we hear the divine, which has no body or means to speak to us save for through our one connection to that realm, through our souls.  In this place, we can color and create.  We put what fits us into those images.  Quite naturally, Moses was a leader, so his God would wind up being authoritarian by necessity in order to get those wandering ex-slaves to follow him to a better place.  And really, in all truth, if the God of Moses who was able to bring plagues and part the Red Sea, then this God would have been able to provide Moses and his people with a place to call their own.  And yet, even in wandering for 40 years in the desert, this side of the story has its colorful and storied explanation for why this had to be that way.  And its fantastic!  I am not kidding you here.  I am serious.  This is all a great act of creativity in motion and shows how we have all helped in our own way to support or even create myths and stories about ourselves that express aspects of who and what we are.

So knowing this, knowing that WE are the ones who create all of this, or are inspired to create it through divine inspiration, let's consider how we can be utterly creative and consider that all of our myths and stories could be remade into forms that suit us better.

For me, I'd really like to see the Garden of Eden be turned into an epic story with fewer black and white lines and more shades of gray.  I'd also like to think that the fruit was itself not forbidden, but known to be something that we all would lust after and seek since being an all-knowing God, God quite naturally KNEW that we'd probably go for the one that was forbidden.  Curious, we had to find out.  And what if the serpent was less an enemy of God and more an agent OF God?  After all, the Seraph, the angels from Judaic times, were all described as "fiery serpents" with wings.  Honestly, I think the serpent was once a symbol of wisdom and self-transformation as is evidenced in nearly every culture on the earth!  In the image below you see a serpent with wings from an Egyptian tomb, and we all know snakes do not have wings, so this was quite simply a creation in order to express an idea about what serpents were to us.  The thing, though, is that this idea, giving serpents wings was something that is native to the Hebrew, the Egyptian, the European, the Chinese and Japanese as well as the Mayan cultures.  Even in South America the serpent represents aspects of transformation, alchemy, and vital force.  In Europe, the stories of dragons depict them with wings.  Have we ever wondered why?  Clearly, there have been no known earth-bound lizards or dinosaurs of any size that had wings.  All of the dinosaurs who had wings were those that flew and were thus built for flight.  So were the dragons of our older years in Europe a remnant of the myth making of our ideas about serpents and what they represented to us way back then?  I bring this up as a way to illustrate a point, which is that its just as easy to see the serpent as beneficial.  What if there is a world where the serpent wasn't seen as the enemy?  If the Garden of Eden came to us by way of the Hebrews, then weren't these people enslaved by a people who revered the serpent? 

You certainly see the serpent in Egyptian culture as an image of vital energy and spirituality because they sprout from the heads of Pharaohs and even Moses had a little duel with the Pharaoh of his day where his staff turned into a snake and ate the Pharaohs snake. Is it possible that the early Hebrews simply demonized the snake as a result of their dislike for their enslavers?  I do think this is entirely possible and even likely.  So if we consider this, could the snake have been something entirely different?  And if so, what could that snake have been?  When you remove the elements within you that see something in a negative light, you can see it in a different light.  So what if the serpent was a friend, not a foe?  Certainly the Hebrews saw the highest angelic order next to God as being winged serpents, the Seraph. 

The truth is, we already have two stories of the Garden of Eden, if you can dare to believe it.  In one, the woman chose to leave of her own volition.  Her name was Lilith, not Eve, and in that story, the details are quite different!  So knowing this, seeing this for what it is, we see different currents of identification existing that tell another side of ourselves in these myths, these ancient stories that speak of who and what we are as a race and a people.   With Lilith, not much is known after she departs, but what if the creators had a longer story about her after she left the Garden?  What would that story say?  And instead of the version we have today of a woman who has been scorned for bringing so much trouble upon the race, was Lilith instead a pioneer, a free thinker, a powerful woman in her own right?  What IS the story of Lilith, then?   If we create these myths, then how might we have gone on to tell her story?  What if we were to do that today, right now? 

I am illustrating myth-making in the making, you see.  Right here, right now, we create something new.  In doing so, what you will find is that engaging in this kind of creative act, you allow yourself sometimes to see things from a fresh perspective.  You embody your creations with something that is inside of you.  So given this, what could you create?  What could you weave and breath life into that speaks of your own soulfulness?  Do your myths represent an uncertain world full of gods and goddesses playing tit for tat or is your world filled with often misunderstood beings that in the end seek the best for you even if you aren't always aware that this is even so?  I know; the old myth of God saying not to eat the fruit was itself an example of that, but you see, I am not clinging to any belief system here.  I am not knocking any one's belief system, I am using some examples to show how we come up with things and give them a life of their own.  Our myths, you see, reflect values that we ourselves hold and in looking at those myths, you can learn things about yourself that you might not have even realized existed.  Otherwise, you might put no stock in such myths as they reside as mere fancifulness. 

As for me, I think its time we got busy and made a few new myths of our own!  For certainly we are the makers of such things, so why not?

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