By the time you finish this article I hope to convey:
- Myths are a foundational nutrient to the psyche.
- We are myth deficient, and it’s devastating our culture.
- We can do something to help.
- A brief intro to a path that’ll prepare you to help.
Buckle up. Parts of this will be bumpy.
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In my previous article, I introduced Joseph Campbell’s Four Functions of Mythology:
Level 1: The Psychological Function
Level 2: The Metaphysical Function
Level 3: The Cosmological Function
Level 4: The Sociological Function
In the same way the engine of our physical body, our heart, is made up of four chambers that work together to circulate blood, oxygen and whatever drugs are currently in your blood stream; our psyche’s ‘engine’ (myth), to be fully functional and life giving, must meet four needs.
Note: Myth is the word I’m using for any conscious or subconscious story we have that produces meaning in our lives. Most people use the word myth as a synonym for lie or falsehood. That would be like using the word ‘food’ only to describe expired food. All food is not expired. All myths aren’t neatly tucked away in our history books. There are hundreds of myths living in you right now.
To rephrase Campbell into modern language: the first level at which myth nurtures the human psyche is by creating a ‘vehicle’ one can use to navigate the game of life as they move through stages of development (child to teenager to adult to parent to elder).
Most of us believed some form of ‘The American Dream’ myth - If I get good grades and graduate college and get married and get a home and work until retirement I’ll get (insert desire).
The first function of myth helps you navigate life’s inherent suffering and awe.
The second level at which myth nurtures the human psyche is by integrating The Ultimate Mystery.
Since the dawn of life, the god we muzzle by using the word ‘evolution’ has been trying to answer the question how the fuck are we suppose to create a finite nervous system to navigate infinity?
At any moment, if our perceptual filters stop working, and our unconscious mind stops filtering out most of the information we’re processing, we’d have a full tilt schizophrenic episode.
The Ultimate Mystery is everything that our myth currently cannot hold, integrate, or comprehend. Mature mythologies have found some kind of symbiosis with the Ultimate Mystery.
Some of the Ultimate Mystery’s favorite songs are: death, synchronicities, natural disasters, love, illness, dreams, atrocities, and the occasional moment of spontaneous rapture that may surprise us on a walk in nature or at dusk looking at a sunset.
The second function of myth is to get the ego to acknowledge, then kneel to the AWE-FULL.
The third level at which myth nurtures the human psyche is through A Grand Narrative, a story that subsumes the genesis of creation, the Big Why, the laws of physics, the nature of death, and all the multi-colored threads in-between.
*This level is important to highlight. Before the rise of Science, Grand Narratives abounded. It cannot be overstated how massive the ripple was that tore through history with the crowning of Scientific Materialism as the king story for Western Culture. We live in a time so thoroughly inside the scientific materialist worldview that people think myth means ‘lie,’ or that ‘real’ or ‘true’ can only apply to phenomena in space/time (but that thoughts, emotions, visualizations, and dreams are not real or true).
But because Scientific Materialism has gotten so many things right, whatever the next Grand Narrative will be, if it doesn’t mesh with science, it aint it. It won’t catch.
The third function of myth is to envelope the individual and their group into the fold of the entire cosmos (that's a kind of cosmic cuddling none of us realize our psyches need).
The fourth level at which myth nurtures the human psyche is by changing our behavior. Myths organize human behavior. Myths built cities, countries, governments, ideologies; castles, plows, ships and atomic bombs.
Living myths produce Ethics. Ethics are aspirational intentions for how to behave. Ethics all for the possibility for individuals and groups to behave contrary to what evolutionary biology primed them for.
The fourth function of myth is to transform you by changing how you behave in the world.
Cultivating a personal myth that meets all four functions is a task for a lifetime. It’s an Opus, a life’s work.
But what I want to do is begin to share the map I’ve found that has helped me fulfill the first and second function.
This article series is going to focus on activating the first and second mythic functions.
For fun and also to help you remember, you can think of this as the Thrice Born Path, the level 1 mythic function as Player Consciousness and the level 2 mythic function as Creator Consciousness.
The achievement unlocked at the end of this journey is Mythic Play.
And our time needs mythic play.
Erick, Why The Fuck Are We Even Talking About This?
I’m probably making some large assumptions assuming yall all are on board with this myth train. This section is for yall who aren’t absolutely with it.
This section is also about to get heavy, so if you’re already convinced learning how to play with myth is one of the most important skills you can learn in order to navigate the rest of your life, feel free to skip this section.
If you aren’t, please follow me into the 21st century atrocity that, if we survive the next 500 years, our future ancestors will still be discussing and dissecting. The span between 1800 and 2100 is when the worst act of self-genocide in history took place.
“It's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it."
The full story will fill volumes of books, but here we’ll focus on the broad historical brushstrokes and then round it out with some statistics.
Once upon a time there was a planet that was chillin for like 4.5 billion years. In like, just the last fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a planetary moment, these little hairless monkeys started poppin off. There were a few types of them, and the only one that survived was the one that was best at telling stories. They got really into telling stories. A few of the monkeys told such powerful stories that even after they died, people kept retelling them. Eventually a few stories rose to the top and we got the major World Religions. Well, to put it lightly, many of the world religions left a bad taste in many million mouths due to how they used their power. After a few hundred years of ‘Dark Ages,’ a new myth began sprouting. Rationalism, Empiricism, and the scientific method were the new stories being told. These stories did something no other story before it could do; it allowed precise, specific reproducible magic: engineering at scale.
With engineering, we spread out into the seas, the skies, and to space. With engineering, we harnessed electricity and lit up the whole fucking night sky. With engineering, we killed the gods of the old religions, ushered in the Industrial Revolution, and began a massive growth spurt.
Here is how we’re doing since the growth spurt:
1) We got too hungry
“Compared to a global labor force of around 5 billion real humans, the machines and work powered by access to buried carbon energy added the equivalent power of 500 billion human workers.” -Nate Hagens
Read his whole article if you want the marrow in your bones to freeze. It was hard for me, but the takeaway is; barring an absolute miracle, the next few generations (at least) are going to have a much, much more ‘simple’ life than we and our parents got to gorge on because the amount of energy we use per year to power our culture is staggeringly, flabbergastingly, shamefully unsustainable.
Depending on how we respond to this, this ‘energy blindness’ could become billions of deaths.
2) We got worked by Corporations
This is the part where my teeth start to grit and my eyes start to well up.
We replaced Yaweh, Allah, and Jesus with capitalism, consumerism, and corporatocracy. Corporations are entities (we can really dive into this in another article).
Because of our mishandling of the power Corporations have, we live in a culture where:
Corporations are indefinitely immortal
Corporations shield people from repercussions
Corporations can become more powerful than governments
Corporations can influence and change country’s laws
Corporations can knowingly create and sell hyper-addictive products, be found guilty of lying about knowingly doing this, and no one gets arrested (source).
As much as the ideological hippie in me would like to condemn corporations, it isn’t corporations that are the problem; it’s corporations living in a context where the only mythic ethic is The Myth of Infinite Growth.
This is a hollow, inadequate, uncreative, and crude myth, and it is the myth that 99% of the corporations on our planet worship.
With The Myth of Infinite Growth, the rise of corporations has brought the western world to our modern epidemic.
Let’s call it The Magic Bullet Myth.
The Magic Bullet Myth
This combination of:
Scientific Materialism (it’s all atoms and chance, and with enough knowledge, we’ll be the masters of the universe)
Consumerist Capitalism (our god is profit, and if you buy from us, we promise our product will fix your problem)
The Magic Bullet Myth (humans are like cars; if something is wrong, we can either replace the part, or we can create something for them to consume that will fix their issue like ‘a magic bullet’)
gives rise to a self-inflicted mutilation that churns to the tunes of millions of deaths a year; and we don’t notice.
I don’t quite know where it started, although one of the first major footprints of this new myth was in one of the first ever scientific papers written on the biological mechanism of vaccines. In that paper, the German researcher used the term “magic bullet” for the first time in a science journal. The story of the magic bullet comes from a German fairytale called Freischütz.
Through the vehicles of Consumerist Capitalism and Scientific Materialism, the Magic Bullet Myth has created a culture where corporation’s profit incentives override common sense, honest science, and ethics.
The Magic Bullet Myth has committed hundreds of crimes. We’ll cover a few to get a taste for what I’m talking about.
The Alzheimer's Lie (source) - key research that has thus misled a generation of researchers, was fabricated. We are told Alzheimer’s is incurable and “as the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is still unknown, there's no certain way to prevent the condition.”
The Antidepressant Lie (source) - oh, yeah, sorry, we had a few people kill themselves in some of our experiments because they had to stop taking our pill to ‘reset the study.’ So we decided to manipulate our data to hide that. Also, yeah, fraud too. Oh, and lastly, we lied to the American public when we said Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. There has never been proof of that.
My eyes start to water when I connect to this. So many people’s nervous systems have been injured because of the chemical imbalance lie. It was made possible because of the power corporations have.
The Sugar Lie (source) - these motherfuckers consciously and, like chess players, used scientists and researchers to manipulate data to hide how damaging sugar can be for the human body (at the amount we ingest it).
And here is what “Sugar Research Foundation,” (the said sugar liar), said in response:
“We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities, however, when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today. Beyond this, it is challenging for us to comment on events that allegedly occurred 60 years ago, and on documents we have never seen.”
We live in an age where corporations are legally considered humans. Imagine if you found out your neighbor was cheating your family and they said:
“We acknowledge that Past Susie Starseed should have exercised greater transparency…”
So, the punchline: The Magic Bullet Myth is a vast amalgamation of corporate entities pursuing The Myth of Infinite Growth at the expense of common sense, honest science, and informed consent and it kills millions of people a year.
The mask we tape over the death toll is called “Diseases of Civilization.”
I polled a group of 120 people and less than 10% had heard this term before.
“Large amounts of scientific evidence positively correlate Western diet to acne, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the so-called “diseases of civilization”.”
You know what else are Diseases of Civilization? The labels inside the DSM.*
*If you're triggered by this statement, it means you care about mental health. We’re on the same team. Check out Anatomy of an Epidemic, email me your thoughts, and we’ll talk about it.
I’m going to repeat this point: if you want to have your view of mental health completely transformed (and updated), read Anatomy of an Epidemic.
Depression, within the last 5 years, is now the number one leading cause of disability in the world (Source). That's 300 million people.
Throw in the rest of the DSM categories, add in the the now-known longitudinal studies of the (lack of) safety for many of the most popular medications, and multiply this all with the tragic fact that many who start medication will try many types, are likely to stay on them for years, and if tested, would likely see signs of metabolic injury as a result of taking the medication… (Source)
…and you have the conditions for a culture that has lost its way.
Because of our lack of living mythologies that carry moral ethics, our stories about ourselves are massively skewed in the favor of spreadsheets, profits, and quarterly reports.
The result is 25+ million deaths, and 150+ million ‘injuries’ a year.
How many years has this gone on? How many more will it continue?
The good news: we aren’t helpless. We live in the most exciting times. We can do something.
Note: Don’t be goofy and take medical advice from a 32 year old blogger. Because this is not medical advice. Medication can be useful in the right context (but don’t get me wrong for a muhfuckin moment, most of the time they are not used in the proper context), and there is also very real danger if you try to stop taking medication without supervision of a doctor. Please be mindful and responsible. I care about your well-being.
The brief case (get it?) I hope I’ve made is that:
- Myths organize humans.
- Religions climbed to the top of that game, and kinda set a bad example.
- Science came along and took the crown.
- The following few hundred years is an example of a world without a living mythology.
- Science begot many children; Engineering and Corporations are hallmarks.
- With the power of Science, but no explicit Ethic, humans kinda lost the plot.
- Our current Scientific-Materialist-Corporatocracy is killing us and the planet.
- Tens of millions of people die every year because of Diseases of Civilization.
- Hundreds of millions of people are ‘disabled from mental illness.’
- Becoming an Artist connected to their living mythology is the greatest form of revolutionary activism…more on this later.
A personal myth can alchemize any of the mental illnesses that aren’t due to biological injury or genetic disease (for those who don’t know, not a single scientific study has found a muhfuckin genetic cause for any disorder in the DSM).
A living mythology would enable people to navigate Diseases of Civilization. A living mythology would mean you’re radically and intimately connected to your unconscious. Meaning, if your body was sick, you’d know. She’d talk to you in your dreams, come through your journaling, demand your attention through synchronicity…in short, you’d notice that something was wrong, and you’d be able to play with other myths aka behavioral modeling of healthy people, trying other dietary philosophies, etc.
These are the three immediate goals a Level 1 and a Level 2 myth-making ape could achieve in our current zeitgeist. I think there is a larger task before us, and it’ll take generations, but it would be to eventually create a foundation from which a Level 3 Myth could be born, and through a Level 3 Myth, we could get a planetary myth.
That’s when the butterfly gets out of the cocoon.
The Thrice Born Map
Because I’m constraining these posts to two to three thousand words each, to finish this article I’ll introduce the map we’ll be diving into next week. This is a map for how to fulfill the first two mythic functions (Player Consciousness and Creator Consciousness).
The path is brutal at times, and seemingly unavoidable; but the potential yields are life-changing.
Stage 1: Default Myth (NPC Consciousness)
Stage 2: First Death
Stage 3: The Wasteland
Stage 4: New Myth (Player Consciousness)
Stage 5: Second Death
Stage 6: Transforming the Wasteland
Stage 7: Thrice Born (Birth of Mythic Play or Creator Consciousness)
I’ll go into them in more depth, but here is a brief overview:
Our Default Myth is the myth we cannot help but be in. It is an amalgamation of the myths of our primary caretakers and culture. If one stays at this level, they are guaranteed to experience what scientific materialism calls ‘a mid-life crisis.’ If you’re under 25, there's a fair chance you’re at this stage. That's normal.
Our First Death is when we encounter an aspect of reality that destroys our default myth. A parent’s divorce can do this, acute trauma can do this; injury, illness, accident, chance, even miracles, spontaneous religious experiences, and altered states of consciousness can all help to kill the myth we live in. Here, our default myth breaks.
Here is where we enter The Wasteland. The wasteland is an archetypal place in the human psyche that all of us ‘go to’ (really, it ‘comes for’ us baby) when we lose whatever myth we were living in. When a psyche is in the wasteland, Scientific Materialism observes behaviors they label addiction, major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder, etc. Many people get stuck here. In a culture without a living mythology for navigating the wasteland, people can die here.
Through luck, chance, or help, many people in the wasteland make it to a New Myth. This stage reveals key developmental insights to those who pass through it. They learn myths can die. They learn what the wasteland is like. They learn that new myths can be found (or created). However, the trap in this stage is that people often embrace the second myth with an even greater fervor than the first. The New Myth is the one most likely to produce ‘zealots’, and thus become ideologies.
However, no myth will ever be able to keep out The Ultimate Mystery completely. Every garden has a snake, even YHWH’s. Eventually the new myth will shatter under the weight of the mystery. (I’ll share personal examples in the next article so you can get a feel for it, but the thing to note is, this is the most important stage on the journey, because it sets up the following opportunity.)
If we’re lucky enough to encounter this moment before our physical death, we have the luck of Returning to the Wasteland. Just so we’re talking about the same thing, when I say the Wasteland, I’m talking about that place in your psyche that feels like a breaking bone; the death of a loved one, the floor falling out from underneath you, the feeling that you’ve been tricked and they’ve all been in on it… these are some facets of the jewel that is the Wasteland.
In returning, we have the opportunity to realize the key to mythic play: that all myths die, and all can be created anew, and the truth of what you are is not your name, your habits, your instincts, your traumas… the truth of what you are is that mystery we call consciousness.
The key to mythic play is you aren’t your myth; you aren’t any myth.
You are the one who myth makes (and goddamn does the world open up after this).
In the next article I’ll share my personal journey as an example. And at the end of each of the following three sections I’ll offer journal prompts you can use to flesh out your journey.
P.S. Drop your questions in the comments and I’ll use them in crafting the next article.
I love yall.