Mythology can be an ugly business. Mythical stories contain some of the most macabre, violent, and psychotic images known to humanity. But, think about it, what would a good story be without these pathological elements? Take the best movies ever made, for instance. The Godfather films contain what most people would consider deviant behavior. Pulp Fiction is another example. My favorite genre, film-noir, deals with very dark subject-matter, but has produced some of the most memorable tales in the history of film-making.
Why do myths take this form? What phenomena are occurring in the psyche that create such images?
The psyche does not exist without pathologizing (Hillman, Revisioning Psychology).
Lou Salome quotes Freud as saying,
We can catch the unconscious only in pathological material (Salome, The Freud Journal).
It’s as if we are so preoccupied (basically, asleep while awake) with our upperworld lives that the psyche can only get our attention by presenting pathological images and scenarios before us. We get sick. Our bodies suddenly find themselves broken, in dire straits. We have nightmares that startle us. Or we suddenly find ourselves out of work and penniless. These situations are very meaningful, if we would only take the time to listen to what they are saying.
It seems that myths, personal, or collective, are just a necessary part of soul-making, albeit utterly mystifying. We are not given “a soul” at birth, but are given the task of laying each brick in the construction of a soul-house.
The world is a place for fashioning the soul, in the sense that soul is not given to us automatically, despite our assumptions to the contrary. Our interiority, our presence must be created from within the distractions and forgetfulness of everyday outer life, from within the constant clash of pleasure and pain, happiness and loss. Our soul is a space for our experience; it makes the difference between being nominally alive and consciously alive. It makes a real connection possible between the ego and Spirit (Soul Loss & Soul Making, by Kabir Helminski, http://www.sufism.org/books/sacred/souloss.html)
A reminder of what I mean by soul in my articles:
I take soul as equivalent to psyche. I adhere to the Heraclitan idea of soul, as possessing limitless depth. It is the state of metaxy, between gods and mortals. I like Hillman’s idea of soul:
By soul I mean, first of all, a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment — and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground (Revisioning Psychology) .
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