Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What is my Myth - James Hollis

“When I use the word myth here, what I am asserting is quite different. Myth derives from the dramatically embodied imagos which our soul serves, whether we know them or not, whether they are helpful or not, whether culturally imposed or individual in origin. In short, our personal myth is our implicit value system, those internalized authorities and controlling ideas that govern our life, whether we know them or not, like them or not, chose them or not.
On any given day, chances are high that much of our life is a reflexive response to the activation of these imagos. Indeed, it is quite possible to imagine a life lived mostly unconsciously, governed by reflexive responses, conditioned and reinforced over time, which create patterns and libido fixations…
In fact, most of the time one’s life serves one’s complexes, those deep-seated value systems derived from another time, another place. On any given day, one is more likely than not to be reenacting a mythological system internalized from popular culture or one’s family of origin. Our collective ways of understandings are conditioned by the Zeitgeist. Were we born to another civilization, another era, our conscious values and our conditioned reflexes would be wholly different…”(p.48-49)
{Zeitgeist is a German language expression literally translated: Zeit, time; Geist, spirit, meaning "the spirit of the age and its society". The word zeitgeist describes the intellectual, cultural, ethical and political climate, ambience and morals of an era or also a trend. In German, the word has more layers of meaning than the English translation, including the fact that Zeitgeist can only be observed for past events. (Taken from on April 24, 2009)}

“Whenever we dance to the seductive tune of money or health, we are living a mythological system which has little to do with the journey of the soul. But while these two imagos constitute the prevailing myth for many, there are other submyths as well.
Even more ubiquitously than money and fitness, we are bewitched by the charged imagos of our family of origin. These mythologems are loaded with primal, often unanalyzable energy, generated when we were most vulnerable, least capable of rational reflection, least aware of the possibility of alternatives. The foremost of these highly charged mythological ideas, as mentioned above, is: ‘The world is large and powerful, and I am not’. We have all internalized this message, though with a thousand variations and strategies for survival. We seek to control the world, through learning or power, or we stay out of harm’s way, or we finesse the power inequity through a thousand nuanced adaptations.
The interplay of the value systems of our culture and family of origin constitutes the operational personal myth at most moments of our lives. Given the fact that we chose neither our family of origin nor the culture into which we were born, and that both exercise enormous power in our lives, just how much has our operational myth been “chosen”?
Our ancestors intuited these autonomous powers, and sometimes even named them. In the Greek imagination, for example, such formative forces had a virtual personality: Moira, fate; Dike, justice; Nemesis, retribution; Sophrosyne, compensation; Proerismos, destiny. These great implacable powers opposed and often thwarted the unfolding of one’s destiny. Moreover, the collision of these forces plays out within the human soul through what we call character, which etymologically means markings inscribed on the soul. Despite the impersonality of these limiting powers, in the classical mythopoesis humans are nonetheless affirmed as responsible for the conduct and consequences of their life. While our character may predispose us to certain choices, and therefore consequences, the lens given by Moira, through which we see a distorting picture of the world, biases those choices and alters the course of our life.
Our ancestors’ capacity to personify these forces enabled them to honor their power. Blessed with such images, and with the tragedies depicting their influence rippling through generations, who could not believe that life was lived on both mythological (that is, psychological) and mundane planes? Who could not respect, even tremble before, these great divinities? If destiny sweeps up wise Oedipus, or the powerful Agamemnon, what then of me?
We all still live on this mythological plane, for we are creatures of depth, not surface, whether consciousness is willing to acknowledge the invisible agencies or not.”(p.50-51)

“We can only begin to discern these mythologies through close, ongoing attention. Sober reflection on the patterns of one’s life may bring hidden mythologems to the surface. Recall that by “mythologems” we mean affectively charged ideas or motifs; or clusters of motifs, and the value system and enactment which they jointly generate. This sort of reflection is intermittently possible in the first half of life, but much more so, and more necessary, in the second half…
Since nothing is ever lost to the psyche, all the charged experiences of our history are present, active to a greater or lesser extent, and are potentially able to usurp consciousness and repeat the original paradigm. No wonder we are creatures of habit. I have sometimes been accused of being pessimistic about growth and change. To that I would reply that it is not pessimism but realism which avers that the more we learn of these buried ideas and the energy attached to them, the more we realize the immensity of the task of rendering them conscious and of staying conscious in any given moment so as to have a possibility of a new choice.”(p.52-53)

“Of course, however conscious we are, we will continue to encounter the suffering and struggles of life, but through self-examination one may also be able, from time to time, to actually live one’s own journey, not that of one’s parents or one’s culture, or one’s trauma. We are, inescapably, mythological beings. The only questions are: what myth and whose, ours or someone else’s?” (p.56)

Quoted from : Hollis, James. 2003. On this journey we call our life : Living the questions. Studies in jungian psychology by jungian analysts ; 103. Toronto: Inner City Books.

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