When I was young I was a huge fantasy nerd. And I still am. It wasn’t until I was 32 that I realized why I was so into fantasy. Reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, I learned that myths are about us.
Myths are stories about:
A good myth tells a story of our own inner life. It’s about what we go through as human beings. Our growing up into adults, waking up to broader views of life, internal battles of shadow and persona, and the grand synthesis of all of the above. A good story contains all the elements of your inner psychological world.
Myths are stories about you but they are also stories about everyone. A good myth is uniquely true for you; while also universally true for us all. A great story is one that is applicable to anyone, no matter where they are in the arc of their own life.
As I have grown, Star Wars has grown with me. When I was 7, I was empowered by the fight of good against evil. In my early adulthood I loved the rebellion’s triumph over imperial tyranny. Now at 40 I am deeply moved by the recognition of my own “dark side’ and the reconciliation with my own father. What’s next I wonder?
A good myth also tells us something true about life. Before humanity became objectively scientific, we were mythic scientists. We made observations about life and then told stories about it. The stories helped us make sense of the mystery surrounding us. Although the stories were not objectively true, they were true enough to get us to where we are now.
While science speaks to facts, stories speak to principles and values. At a young age they teach us how to properly orient ourselves to the world around us. The principles we glean from stories are enough for a lifetime. And as our outlook broadens, these principles are re-applied in novel ways.
They come from the same place that dreams come from, our unconscious. Dreams come from our personal unconscious, while myths come from the collective unconscious. Myths are the collective dreams of the tribe.
Myths are by the people and for the people. Myths give rise to religions; and religions give rise to culture. A good myth acts as a guiding principle for the growth of an individual and of a nation.
While the term, “the unconscious” might sound clinical and dead, nothing could be further from the truth. ‘The unconscious’ is just a name for a mystery we don’t fully understand. The dark waters of the unconscious remain mostly uncharted. What we do know about it is that it’s alive, primal, and wildly creative.
If you read the post What Is Projection and How Does It Work?, then you will be familiar with how our interior life is projected and visible in the outer world. Myths work in the same way. Myths are the projected and symbolic story of ourselves.
“All the gods, all the heavens, all the worlds, are within you.” -Joseph Cambpell
What is one of your favorite stories?
Can you find how that story plays itself out in your life?
Can you find the hero in you?
Can you find the villain?