Myths are a kind of shadow, the reflections of our struggles and triumphs, the stories by which we come to understand the world around us and within us. Myths help us to make sense of the world, to interpret it. Nietzsche had once said, “there are no facts, only interpretations”. An interpretation is none other than a story we tell ourselves, a mere shadow of the true being of a thing. Whenever we come to know something, we are merely coming to know a story that we had a part in creating. But what happens when we begin to confuse stories? What happens when our stories become facts and we begin to lose the connections that bring us into relationship with the world around us? The moment we begin to lose our mythic sense of reality is the moment we begin to disenchant the world around us.
No facts can ever be fully understood from an “objective” state of knowing. The very act of coming to understand something will always integrate the observer with the observed, making a story by which we all take part. Often we like to try and particulate something into a fact. We try to cut up its relationships with the rest of the world and make the grand assumption that it is a discernible thing with a solitary identity. We like to think that we are capable of somehow knowing that it is indeed a reducible and separate thing. And yet, there is nothing in the world that could prove upon such an epistemology. That too is merely our attempt at interpreting the world. That too is merely a story.
LeGuin had written in the Wizard of Earthsea “that to light a candle is to cast a shadow”, and in many ways our act of shining a light upon something, whether it be upon things in the world, ideas in the mind, or even realizations of love and sorrow, will always create a shadow. These shadows are not a bad thing, but rather the mystery of a thing, pointing towards how the observer and the observed are inseparable in the knowing of the thing as an entangled event. To know, there must be a knower and something to know. The shadows are the gateway into the mythic realm. They help us realize that no amount of light will ever be enough to transcend the stories we have co-created to help operate within the world. No matter where we shine a light, we will always have a shadow to keep us aware of the mythic realm.
But the Western world’s obsession with facts has many insidious undertones which actively serve to disenchant the world and lead us into a belief of dead materialism and fatalistic determinism. Our collective disdain for myths and stories has stunted our ability to use the stories of the world around us to reflect upon our own archetypal nature. As we continue to strip the stories away from the world around us, we begin to devalue all the things which make the world so wonderful. When the world becomes disenchanted, the trees are no longer sentient beings but are instead commodities to be butchered for their splintery guts; water is no longer the life source of springs and rivers but is instead a resource for bottling and control; fossil fuels are no longer the bodies of the dead titans which once roamed this Earth, but are instead the power by which we pollute the world. And never forget what we have done to the stars and how we have forgotten their wisdom.
Perhaps a story would help us better understand:
Legend of Fallen Star Village
By Andy Theodrith and Mathieu Thiem
“There once was an island, and on this island there was a village of people who grew jealous of the night sky’s lights. It was a jealousy born out of fear, a fear of darkness and destiny. While they cowered in fear of the dark, not being able to see what was around them, they hatched a plan to pull down the stars and contain them in small lanterns. During the day they stripped the land of life, mineral and resource, crafting the lanterns that could hold the stars, and the machines that could go up into the heavens and pull them down. They managed to build thousands upon thousands of lanterns set them all around the village and surrounding area of stripped land.
The day finally came when the bravest of men were launched into the sky and gathered up the stars. Many people died and were swallowed up by the endless fires they sought to contain. But they still managed to contain them. When they brought them back down to Earth, they began to place them in the lanterns. The whole village was lit up like the night sky itself for all to see, shining bright and brilliant. The villagers were pleased with themselves.
Every day and night for generations the people of Fallen Star village, for that is what travelers begin to call the place, would live a life of certainty. They stayed within the known land of the village. However because the stars were trapped in the lanterns, they could no longer look up and see them. They could not teach their children, and their children’s children, about the stories the stars held. They could no longer remember the directions of the world around them. They were masters of the stars but they had become prisoners of their village. Unable to communicate the language of the stars and the stories of their ancestors.
Since the stars were costly to maintain, they had to keep tearing apart their island to get out the precious metals to contain them. Eventually land grew barren and the spirits that provided for life ran away. The village begin to fall into disrepair and people begin to grow hungry. So they decided that they would search beyond their own island to find new resources. However a very terrifying problem arose. Every time they sent a person out to explore, that person was unable to make it back, for they did not know how to read the stars in the sky amongst the vastness of the ocean. No matter what they tried, they could not hear the stories of their ancestors from the sky. They were lost. Time ran out for Fallen Star village. The stars that were contained, burned their way out of those lanterns and rose back into the heavens. The people who managed to survive cowered in the dark ashes of their beloved city, cursing the heavens.
But some explorers in the dark world beyond saw a stream of stars rising up into the sky from a place far beyond the horizon. Like a giant beacon of hope. And at that instant they knew how to find home again and the stars reoriented themselves once more in their place in the sky to give direction to them. The stories of their ancestors came flooding back into them, and they knew they had to return with the good news of the stars and the new hope they had found in the old ways.’
This story was written by my husband and I. He was actually the originator of it. We were driving at night out in the country, enjoying the overhead stars, following the constellations towards the city. As we came up to the town, the stars began to fade. And then, as we began to drive up and over the hill, a vast sprawl of lights illuminated the valley below. That is when this story manifested itself from Andy. He channelled it from some unknown realm, flowing out like a prophecy, but also like some lost ancient tale. It was a moment of hushed reverence on my part. I was floored. The hairs on my arms begin to tingle, and I knew that something magical had just happened. The story was so potent and the meaning so clear that it has always been a part of my own story telling ever since.
This is the power of story. It takes us outside or our own lived experience and invites us to realize different narratives and perspectives of the world around us within a liminal realm of myth and magic. Within deeply rich and vibrant cultures, stories become the vehicles of wisdom and knowledge necessary to help propel the society forward while holding them firm to a rooted history of balance. However, within cultures that replace stories with facts, the co-creative mind of connective consciousness shrinks into dogmatic perspectives. The open spaces which were once sacred, become filled in with ego and obsessions of power(knowledge being power as well), and slowly but surely the connectivity of the community dies to the deep spiritual malady of Wetiko.
In our obsessive rush towards the facts for the sake of power, we have spilled the blood of millions of species, and their spirits have grown restless with rage as a result. To think that we power the world with the spirits of the dead, and we have yet to truly comprehend the mythic significance of this. But because we no longer believe in spirits, in the stories and meanings of their lives, we can not hear them wail and mourn. We can not hear them warn us of the imbalances we have created. We only see commodities. We only see test subjects. We only see a delicious meal. We only see a means to an end. Just as the folk of Fallen Star Village confused the light of the stars for their own light, we have confused the life of the earth as our own life. But our stories belong to the world alone, and the price we have paid for this mistake has been huge. We have lost the ability to read the stories of the world, and with it we have lost the ability to commune with nature and balance the society of humanity with the rest of the world.
It is only through the art of mythic living and the techniques of mythic sensing, that we will once more be able to root into the liminal spaces of our existence and understand how to balance ourselves with the world.
“A story must be judged according to whether it makes sense. And ‘making sense’ must be here understood in its most direct meaning: to make sense is to enliven the senses. A story that makes sense is one that stirs the senses from their slumber, one that opens the eyes and the ears to their real surroundings, tuning the tongue to the actual tastes in the air and sending chills of recognition along the surface of the skin. To make sense is to release the body from the constraints imposed by outworn ways of speaking, and hence to renew and rejuvenate one’s felt awareness of the world. It is to make the senses wake up to where they are.”
― David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
Living in the mythic is a genuinely intimate experience. You no longer treat the world as if it were an objectified commodity to be manipulated, but you caress her as if she were an experience of communion. The Mythic Realm liberates you from certainty and absolutes, and it brings you into a liminal space where the truth is a living and breathing sentience, never to be caged by the hubris of our limited definitions, but to be experienced and cared for. The truth lives and prospers when it is given the freedom to grow and expand. When the truth is alive, the gods are no longer prison wardens of dogmatic spirituality, but they become the companions by which your agency hitches a ride like a cosmic surfer on an endless wave. They laugh and cry and struggle, with you, as you, and for you, all because the heno-poetic ritual of being a part of the story gives to them the reverence and meaning they crave.
By making room for the truth to expand, we create a sacred space by which a greater intelligence can cohere to the story. When truth is seen as an open story full of purpose and possibility, other minds can immerse themselves into it, other beings can co-evolve in awareness with it. This sacred space which is also a liminal space serves to invite greater modes of entanglement within our world, an entanglement between meaning and matter which is the Magic of our existence.
The magical art of mythic living is none other than the full immersion into a life of mythic sensing. It is living in a constant liminal space, the impregnated space in between the infinite slivers of our existence. Living in the mythic makes us both mothers and fathers of the co-creative process. We hold within us the meanings of myth and we imbue that meaning into the physical world, we enchant the atomic thermodynamic elements with the mythic force of Mystery itself.
Everything is story. We like to think that there is indeed a truth that exists external of our own ability to comprehend it, but even this is just a story. Living in the mythic is not just realizing that existence is filled with interwoven stories of meaning and purpose, but realizing that existence is nothing but stories. The mind itself is a teller of stories, a tool which configures the actions of the world and displays a sequential order of the phenomena by which you intra-act. The stories are of course entirely sensual, and from their ability to enliven our senses through our mutual entanglement, they come to be entirely real and substantial to our experience.
Moments of synchronicity are the perfect examples of sensing the mythic. For a brief moment the veil of the mythic parts and the meaning of one’s existence resonates with the story of the world. Sadly many people consider this a mere coincidence, that the real world is not connected in such a way. But when we come to realize the true implications of the holarchy of interbeing, how could coincidence ever be true? So many people seemingly hold the contradictory notion that the world is a causal deterministic place, with every action and reaction happening in reasonable connection with one another, and yet coincidental chance abounds. Such unawareness of a blatant cognitive dissonance is silly to behold.
But the dissonance that those people have failed to realize is that to themselves they are an agency within existence whose stories of meaning and purpose are merely ideals disconnected from their environmental reality. Yet, how can this be when we are so intrinsically interwoven with reality on a mythic level? We are stories woven into the stories of the world, and synchronicity is the act of the gods reaching into us and fine tuning the strings of our heart.
Our reality is a liminal playground. No slice of space-time will ever render you a complete picture of truth, and no whole absolute embodiment of the infinite can ever occur lest you negate the concept of endlessness itself. Every moment, if moments are a good enough unit of arbitrary made up time, of existence is uncertain and without a definitive identity. Within this endless existence, you are multitudes, and multitudes abound into paradoxes which hold no solutions, no beginnings or endings, just endless transitions, endless journeys of co-creation.
We can not confirm that there is a causal deterministic time for our world, but we can hold to an interwoven interplay of synchronistic co-creation. Layers upon layers of henotic interdependent wills in constant intra-action with one another. An alchemical milieu of archetypal arrangements, the compositions of emergent identities giving unto us agencies upon agencies of myth and magic. This is the symphonic acausal universe of the mythic realm. This is the place that meaning and matter entangle.
Every action has purpose. Every relationship has meaning. You are Interbeing. You move through the mythic realms of fairy every day, unawares. Wake up to this nature. Wear the stars as you wear your own skin, each constellation a knowing of your being and placement upon mother earth, each sun a distant relationship of your interbeing. Expand your body into the woods and the rivers and the skies. Breathe in the clouds atop the rooted peaks. Honor the stories of the old ones in each place.
Living mythically is not a state of perfect harmony. Rather it is the habit or behavior of always seeking harmony through story. There will always be internal and external struggle by which your full immersion into the mythic must persist. To those that live in the world of disenchantment they are prone to seek an escape from their struggles. To those that live mythically, in a world of enchantment, they seek to resolve those struggles with the entirety of their being. They wrestle and dance within the sacred spaces of their grief. The personal will is no longer a disconnected egoistic delusion, but a will of prayerful deliberate action. It is a will that bows in service to the cosmos as the cosmos bows in service to it.
Each one of my actions is a request to the entities around me. Each act of power is done in service to those beings. And their acts of power are in service to me. Even in the simplest of actions such as making tea, I give thanks to the water, the cup, and the leaves. I request permission in prayer that it shall help heal me and I will honor its power. And even after its brief existence, it leaves me a noble gift. A memory and a promise to divine, in order for me to weave the old into the new. I accept such a gift in gratitude, for this is how you honor each other.
The casting of a circle by which we call the spirits to our aid, is a mythic act. The trance of a drum circle that takes us out of reality, is a mythic act. The jam session that emerges into a connective intelligence is mythic. The act of sex which takes you outside of yourself and brings you into relationship with another person is a mythic act. The birth of a child is a mythic act. Dying is mythic. And so too is grieving. All of these acts are sacred rituals in their own right, full of myth and magic. Anything that takes us out of our mundane conceptions of the world and embeds us into the liminal spaces of process and transition can become a ritual for mythic living.
People are currently wondering, how do we transition into a new story by which we can all live in a better world? The answer to this lies in the letting go of the destination and in the embrace of the journey. There can be no end to our journey, nor should there be. There is only an endless continual dance with the cosmos. It is the sensual and intimate nature of our Interbeing to always be embracing one another in all our multitudes. And even in our struggles and desperations, we are stumbling through the wilderness for our hope of reconnection with each other, so this too becomes an act of embrace.
Mythic living is not a finality, rather it is a willful integration into a reality that accepts both the ends and means as transitions. It is the embrace of Zeno’s paradox. The embrace of alchemical sexuality. The embrace of struggle and suffering. For integration is complete submergence into the world, and this means every atom of yours is wrestling with every other atom around it. Mythic living is both tragic and euphoric. It is the coming and going of truth as if it were a living spirit of breath and fire. It is the strange liminality where one simultaneously embraces the cosmos while surrendering oneself into its arms.
We don’t know where we will end up, and where we end up is hardly ever where we intended to be anyway. Each ending is merely another beginning, another addition to the pattern of stories that make up the Woven Song. Rather, it would be wiser for us to become rooted entities within the liminal spaces in between the stories, to keep ourselves within the sacred mythic realm of our Interbeing so there will always be more room to embrace the world in its multitudes. We must become the story we wish to see in the world, but we must always realize the impermanence of our stories, and the shadows which point to a deeper wisdom. This is what it means to live in the mythic. This is what it means to be a part of the Woven Song.
Picture and Quote by Charlotte Bailey