(From: ‘Earth People’ Volume 1 Number 3)
In the beginning of all things,
Wisdom and knowledge were with the animals;
for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man.
He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself
through the beasts, and that from them,
and from the stars and the moon,
man should learn.
Tirawa spoke to man through his works.
(Chief Letakots-Lesa of the Pawnee tribe to Natalie Curtis, c.1904)
The above passage was taken from: ‘The Way of the Animal Powers – Historical Atlas of World Mythology’ by Joseph Campbell. This and other works by Joseph Campbell are the major sources of my understanding of mythology and therefore of life. This is because, in my opinion, no one knows mythology, and especially primitive mythology, like Joseph Campbell. He understood life and the importance of myth so well that his work was the major influence in my own transformation as well as the movie trilogy ‘Star Wars’.
Myths, like dreams, visions and to some extent channelling, come from the energies of the universe and your own mind and body that are manifest in symbolic or metaphoric images. As Joseph Campbell says in ‘The Power of Myth’: “Myths and dreams come from realisations of some kind that have then to find expression in symbolic form.”
Carl Jung referred to dreams ranging from personal archetypes of the unconscious to universal archetypes of the unconscious. It is the personal archetypal images that come from our cellular memories, subconscious or unconscious. These create our personal dreams, and it is the universal archetypal images that come from our spirit, soul or higher consciousness and that are common to all human beings from all times and places, that can be considered mythological. Myths are society’s dreams.
Adolf Bastian (from Wikipedia - "Adolf Bastian (26 June 1826 – 2 February 1905) was a 19th century Polymath best remembered for his contributions to the development of ethnography and the development of anthropology as a discipline. Modern psychology owes him a great debt, because of his theory of the Elementargedanke, which led to Carl Jung's development of the theory of archetypes, besides influencing work of comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell.").
Adolf realised that in the mythologies and religions of the world there were universal themes that occurred everywhere, and he called them 'Elementargedanke' or 'Elementary Ideas'. And the themes that clothed these Elementary Ideas were local and unique in different places, different cultures, and different times, he called 'Volkergedanken' or 'Folk Ideas'. The local aspects are the concerns of Historians and Ethnologists and they make the point of the differences. The universal aspects relate to psychological problems and are associated with Psychology, and this I and Joseph Campbell sees as the most important part of myths. And he sees Carl Jung saying the most, but he called these Elementary Ideas, 'Archetypes of the Unconscious'.
According to Joseph Campbell, myths serve four functions, which are:
1/ The Mythical Function. Realising the wonder of the universe, and the wonder of yourself as a living symbol of the Creator. Also that behind the surface of the forms of the world there is a mystery that somehow supports the surface physical world. “If mystery is manifest through all things, the universe becomes, as it were, a holy picture. You are always addressing the transcendent mystery through the conditions of your actual world.”
2/ The Cosmological Dimension. This is today the concern of science, to show the shape and nature of the universe and it is this aspect that changes according a societies understanding of the world. Early societies related this to the visible world of the sun, moon, and seasons. But cosmology and structure of the world must be shown in a way that allows the mystery and the experience of awe to still come through.
3/ The Sociological Function. Where the myth is supporting and validating a certain social order. This is where myths vary from one place to another and from one culture to another. According to Joseph Campbell, it is this function that has taken over in our current world, and is out of date, in all the pages and pages of rules on how to behave and what you should wear etc.
4/ The Pedagogical Function. This is the function that everyone must try to relate to, and gain from the wisdom of nature, realising the brotherhood we have with plants, animals, minerals and all living beings of the universe. This function of myths is the one that can teach us how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances, as it teaches us the stages of life from birth through maturity and death to rebirth.
Today’s “New Age” movement has sparked a lot of interest in spiritual matters, because spirit is the healing force of life that creates harmony in the world. It’s therefore natural that healing and spirituality go hand in hand. And there is indeed a great need for this healing energy, not only for all of humanity, but for all of life on and within the earth. For our Mother Earth is the one that gives us all the matter and substance of the material world, and it is our Father Spirit which lives and breathes through this material world.
Enlightenment, Ascension etc. are all words used to explain the unexplainable experience of oneness with all life in the material universe or with the spirit of God, Great Spirit, Creator etc. Everything in our experience of life is an illusion because it is in symbolic or metaphoric form. Our physical body is a symbol of God; it is the manifestation, in symbolic form, of the never-ending circle of life.
When we quit thinking about our own preservation, and ourselves (our ego conscious, the "I" thinking) we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness, and what all the metaphors and symbols in dreams and myths have to deal with is that transformation of consciousness of one kind or another. Myths are, and have always been, here to help us understand life; the only trick is to find the message that is behind the metaphors and symbols of the mythological stories.
Because all native people worldwide relate intimately with the nature of earth and sky, they all have a shamanic base; in fact, all different religions began with a shamanic base, but in varying degrees have missed the messages within the mythological stories and religious texts. It is the native cultures that have kept their simple shamanic ways of understanding the nature of the universe.
The shamans of the world have been given different names in different cultures, just as the different cultures have different names for God. The Native Americans refer to them as Medicine Men and Women; the Traditional Aboriginals here in Australia refer to them as Clever Men and Women.
These shamans are those people who have been called to the spirit realms, often via a type of schizophrenic crack up, and from this time on they become personally familiar with all the natural forces, energies, or spirits of the universe. This is because their consciousness spends a lot of time travelling with spirit to the many realms of The World Tree, from the Under-world roots of birth, death, survival and unconscious energies to the Upper-world fruits of higher consciousness and being at one with The Creator, God etc. (see my article on 'Duality and the Order of Life and Energy'). Most people, on the other hand, spend most, if not all, their conscious time and effort in the Middle-world of conscious thoughts but visit these other worlds at night in dreams. The Middle-world is governed by our normal material five senses, but there are another five mythical senses that shamans use, which I will go into in 'Duality and the Order of Life and Energy' in the next issue; Volume 1 Number 4.
The shamans and mystics of the world are equivalent to the artists and poets of our modern Western culture. In fact, the shamans of the past have been responsible for much of the rock art and mythological stories that are still relevant to us today, if only we can understand the messages behind the symbolism. These shamans, mystics, artists and poets have experiences with the spirits or energies of the ‘Other-worlds’ in an altered state of consciousness. Then they come back to the Middle-world of physical consciousness to try to communicate to the rest of us what they experienced and learnt in the Other-worlds, which is an experience that can only be described or communicated in symbolic or metaphoric form. This shared experience is what will often become a tradition or religion.
It is because of this symbolic nature of dreams and mythology that I teach no belief system. As I only ask everyone to experience their own worlds, discuss or share their experiences as best they can, and to follow their own path of heart, or as Joseph Campbell calls it, their BLISS (see the home page).
The most important underlying aspect of Shamanism and all of the native mythology is the connectedness of all things, and the experience of nature, both the human nature within and the universal nature around us. The best example of discussing this connectedness is with the words of Chief Seattle as follows:
“The president in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
“Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
“We know the sap which courses through trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family.
“The shinning water that moves in the streams and the rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.
“The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.
“If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
“Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother. What befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth.
“This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
“One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on it creator.
“Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the sent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say good-bye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.
“When the last Red Man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?
“We love this earth as a newborn loves its mothers heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land, as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all.
“As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: there is only one God. No man, be he Red Man or White Man, can be apart. We are brothers after all.’