Mythic Innoculation by Michael Meade
Although decidedly frail, perpetually foolish, and seemingly about to destroy the whole thing, humans are blessed with an imagination equal to the world and essential to its ways of continuing. In the great drama of life the human soul becomes the makeweight, the extra quantity, and uniquely living quality needed to help tip the balance of the world towards continuing creation.
The gravitas of the awakened soul helps tie the thread of the eternal to the presence of the present moment. When the dark times come around and the end seems near again, it becomes more essential for the individual person to learn and live the story the soul carries from before birth. If people are not invited into a living stream of culture, tragedies begin to grow. Unlived dreams become tragedies waiting to happen. Lose the sense that each life carries meaning and death becomes meaningless as well.
Traditionally, it has been the function of myth to wrap people in stories that make intuitive sense of the world and point to meaningful ways of being part of it. Yet, under the harsh rule of materialism and the dull spell of literalism, myth becomes dismissed as fantasy, as something out of touch with reality. Yet in the inner recesses of the human soul, where the facts of life mingle with the mysteries of eternity, myth means “emergent truth.”
In the long run, and it is the long run that’s of increasing concern, myth makes meaning. The job of myth is to make the world meaningful and hold everyone in the mythic imagination of the living story. Meaning is a storied thing and many meanings appear and can become clear once the storyline has been found. Each life, each myth has its own inner logic, its own subjective truth, its own persuasive beauty and its own dramatic form.
Myth makes meaning and helps reveal the significance of both inner and outer events. Troubled and threatened as it may be, the world remains a mystery trying to be revealed. Reality isn’t fully real until its hidden meanings have been revealed. Every event, inner and outer, has hidden meaning waiting to be revealed. Yet, it takes a story, a narrative shape to uncover the meanings that hide within the facts of the matter.
Stories offer mythic contexts, psychic subtexts, and subtle backgrounds for viewing and interpreting the world around us and the inevitable dramas and tragedies that befall us. Two great dramas appear on the same stage: the endless story of the world and the ongoing struggle of each human soul to awaken to a sense of meaning within that tale. The great wide world and the individual soul, each threaded through with many endings and beginnings that keep the drama of life going in tragic and surprising, in compelling and intricate ways.
Myth makes sense by holding things in the rhythm of beginning, middle, and end and placing each person in the patterns and plots of the eternal drama. Mythic sense reveals the themes that secretly run all the way through an entire life, the hidden threads that can draw disparate pieces together and shape them to a coherent inner story.
Myth opens immediate feelings for the great wonders of spirit as well as for the intricate territories of the soul. Myth includes all the invisible aspects of life, the missing parts and the hidden themes, the epic qualities and emotional tenors and all the mute and musical tones that shape the inward ground of being.
Only nature, with its endless variations and dramatic orchestrations can compare with the stream of images and intimations that flow from the living waters of mythic imagination. The inheritance of mythic imagination is one of the deepest, most natural and pertinent powers of humankind. People are mythic by nature and instinctively imbued with nature’s essential pattern of life, death, and renewal.
The real marketplace of humanity involves trading in surprising images and bold ideas, in genuine feelings of love, in bone-level feelings for justice and the presence of meaning waiting to be found both in the immediacy of the world and in the inner speculations of the soul. The human soul harbors an enduring power of imagination able to transcend both common sense and simple reality. Unlike fantasy that would escape from the pain of reality, imagination combines the concrete with the inspired. This deep sense of connecting to the spirit of life makes most sense when nothing else makes any sense.
At critical moments in history mythic sense tries to return to awareness in order to indicate life’s inherent capacity for renewal. When the end seems near and nothing seems to make sense anymore, the sense of myth tries to return to make sense of all the endings and to hint at ways of beginning again. In the end there is no sense of closure, but a surprising mix of closings and openings, as the door of time swings loosely on the threshold of eternity. In the end, mythic sense returns bringing with it the wisdom of origins, the pulse of originality and the vitality of the unseen to the world-weary realm of literal reality.
Imagination connects a person to the divine aspects of the world, it adds the living element to the daily world and can alter reality in no time. As the poet said, “Eternity is in love with the productions of time.”
So-called reality is the child of an ongoing love affair between time and eternity. Time begins in “all eternity” and returns there when it needs to be replenished. It only takes a little imagination to break the linear, literal spells of time and arrive back at the Once Upon a Time that is the origin of the soul to begin with.
Not just citizens of the world, not merely statistics without inherent meaning, humans are living metaphors, bodies and spirits conjoined with the glue of the soul and shaped by invisible threads of imagination and story.
We cannot rescind this ancient and immediate heritage of imagination, for it is buried in the bones and laced into the body cell by cell. We are imaginative beings doused with eternity before our eyes ever opened upon this earth. From the beginning we see more than we can express and our last words fail to conclude the stories that live through us.
For we are lived through by energies, ideas and emotions that flow from the unseen world behind this world. We are overloaded by our own dreams, saddled with unusual fates and driven by unseen destinies. Were it not for the gravity that rests in our bones and vital organs, we would take flight. Were it not for the tangled relationships of past, present and future, we would escape every atmosphere and become the Unseen.
Despite the collapse of the immediacy of mystery into the confines of history, this down-to-earth world is also a mythic place, an ongoing production fashioned and staged by eternity. Despite the pressing problems and mounting concerns, the issue isn’t so much saving the planet as saving humanity from itself again. When times become dark and difficult the issue for those on earth comes down to living authentically, to authenticating the purpose and meaning already present in each soul.
No solitary idea, no matter how great, no single notion or shared belief can shift the weight of the world towards a meaningful future; but the accumulated vitality of many lives lived more fully might become a meaningful makeweight in the balance between time and eternity. Strange as it may seem, individual consciousness forms the makeweight, and living out the hidden meanings within life helps to balance the weight of the world. Each living being wrapped around an invisible, eternal thread, each a story breaking out of the wall of time to sing its own unfinished song.
Michael Meade is a renowned storyteller, author, scholar of mythology, and student of ritual in traditional cultures. He has the unusual ability to synthesize this material into a persuasive presentation, tapping ancestral sources of wisdom, and connecting them to the stories we are living today. Michael is the founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, author of The World Behind the World and The Water of Life: Initiation and the Tempering of the Soul. His latest CD recordings are The Light Inside Dark Times and The Ends of Time, The Roots of Eternity.