We live in a time of the “lifting of the veil” that includes the uncovering of scandals as well as systematic abuses; but also the discovering of hidden truths that can reveal the way forward. Michael Meade uses surprising elements of the uncovering of the famous Lascaux Caves to show how the dramas of history lead us to the haunts of mystery. Like the hidden treasures found in ancient caves, there are new forms of imagination and understanding waiting to be found in the depths of the human soul.
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This episode of Living Myth illustrates the capacity of mythic stories to be both timely and timeless. Michael Meade begins with the drama of the recent State of the Union address and considers contemporary conflicts and confusions as part of a “worldwide state of pandemonium” similar to the condition depicted in the ancient story of Pandora’s Box. Among surprises found in old versions of the story, it was not Pandora who lifted the lid and released all the troubles. Rather, it was Epimetheus, a man of exaggerated self-interest, who was lacking both insight and foresight.
In the midst of all the fears and anxieties, the conflicts and confusions currently loosed upon the world, Meade reminds us that the hidden hope held back in the ancient story is really the deep human capacity for imagination.
As a metaphor for human nature, the Acorn Myth suggests that each person comes into the world with an innate shape and an inborn style intended to grow a particular character. Thus the soul, rather than being a blank slate, tends to be more like a garden already planted and seeded in a certain way.
The inner seed of the soul arrives already packed with knowledge. Specifically it knows something of its own way of being and, if the shell of the seed can be cracked, the nature and shape and aim of a person's life can become revealed. Call it a myth, an open secret or an eternal truth, the sense of each soul having a seed story it came to live resonates throughout the cultures of the world.
As the world around us becomes increasingly unstable and chaotic, we need to turn to the inner shape and core imagination of our own soul to find stability, meaning and purpose.
On this excerpt from the latest Living Myth Premium episode, Michael Meade reads selected poems from The Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, the renowned anthology edited along with Robert Bly and James Hillman. The recording includes reflections on the surprising dynamic of creating the anthology along with commentary on the importance of poetic inspiration. This is the first part of a Living Myth Premium podcast series that weaves poetry, spoken word and anecdotal stories about the role of art and creativity and the undying speech of the soul.
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Peace and blessings,
Michael Meade suggests that “when the walls are closing in,” what is typically missing is a connection to things that are authentic and creative, life-enhancing instead of self-limiting. An old wisdom tale turns the common world upside down, so that those who wield power to the detriment of the common folk are revealed to be inauthentic and fraudulent.
When those who are in power refuse to be authentic they wind up trapped in their own vanity and self-delusions. Instead of enhancing life for others, they wind up building walls that imprison themselves as well as everyone else. When the walls are closing in, there is usually a failure of the courage and imagination needed to find genuine solutions that diminish the fear and suffering that can so easily engulf the world.
On this episode, drawn from an in-depth interview on New Dimensions Radio, Michael Meade describes the current period of worldwide crisis as the “time of impossible tasks” and says, “We have to tap into the deep understanding of the human soul, one image of which is the wise elder.” In contrast to those who simply grow older, the genuine elder lives a life of meaning and purpose. The awakening of true elders can lead to a revitalization of youth, whose life dreams are intended to form part of the core imagination of the future. This deep dialogue is rich with metaphors that bring a sharp focus to imaginative healing possibilities for these times of trouble and radical change.
“We live in a world in which it is easier to divide things than unify them. Politics and polarization are both connected to the root word ‘pole’ which can appear as a unifying central pole, as in a tent, but can also divide into opposite poles. The unifying energy is there, but is not visible because it is not yet conscious.” So begins Michael Meade’s consideration of the essential dynamic of opposition leading to a new state of unity. In order to uncover the deeper sense and meaning of opposition and polarization, Meade goes to an ancient practice from a small tribe near the Amazon River. The ideas about the wise and the crosswise aspects of the soul helps elucidate the sense that in our individual lives and our collective experiences we are often looking for and longing for the third thing that is the medicine we most need.
On the first episode of the New Year, Michael Meade begins an exploration of the myths of creation and tales of re-creation that allow time to renew and the world to begin again. Any serious consideration of creation must also include the energies of chaos that continually dissolve and disintegrate what creation establishes in the world. An ancient story from India describes the “two hands of creation” through which the world recreates itself from emptiness as well as from abundance, from sorrow as well as joy and from despair as well as wonder.
Michael Meade tells a story about a boy orphaned from his community who must find his way back, a journey that reveals threads of fate and destiny. Meade suggests that we all have orphaned parts of ourselves that are needed when we are feeling lost, disempowered or rejected and are trying to awaken to the dream of our life. He describes how genius hides behind our wounds and how the awakening energies in our life can be found within the rejected aspects of ourselves. Seen this way, we don’t transform to be another person, we transform by bringing into awareness parts of ourselves that could not be present earlier in our life.
This episode begins with a poem about how easy it is to become lost in this world, in this time of conflict and growing darkness. On the eve of Solstice, Michael Meade takes the image of darkness and light and weaves it through a consideration of holidays and holy days, Christmas trees and the Tree of Life. The word solstice means “sun stands still”, and Meade elaborates the moment of standing still as a way for people to connect with each other and reconnect to the essence of life and the moment when light returns to the world from the depths of darkness.
Michael Meade reports on the increase of isolation and loneliness in the world and comments on the new cabinet post in England entitled “The Minister of Loneliness.” He contrasts the old ideas of having genuine “friends of the soul” with the modern sense of “friending” people online. He then draws on ancient traditions from India, Ireland and Mexico to illustrate the importance of having “soul friends who nourish the inner spirit and true aim of each other’s lives.”
Michael Meade responds to the current international climate talks and recent alarming reports on climate change by turning to the old teaching story of the blind men who encounter an elephant. In this case, the elephant represents the overwhelming challenge of global warming and climate change that can make any of us feel numb, blind and helpless. After considering some of the literal problems, Meade turns to the psychological dilemmas that accompany the huge challenges we face and then takes the issue to a deeper level of myth and imagination in order to find new ways of seeing the crisis and envisioning ways forward.
Although it may often feel that we are running out of time when it comes to the great issues of the world and the struggles of daily life, Michael Meade suggests that it is not more time that we need but a stronger connection to things that are timeless, and therefore eternal. Meade tells an ancient Bushman story from Africa that depicts the dilemma which humanity faces with each crisis that involves issues of meaning, truth and the human soul. When great troubles abound, whether it be on the world stage or at a critical stage of life, what we need is the touch of imagination and a hint of the eternal.
“Gratitude is a sign of nobility in our souls” and yet “gratitude can also be difficult to express because it comes from a deep place in the heart where pain can also dwell.” Thus begins Michael Meade’s mythological consideration of the essential place of gratitude in human consciousness and at the core of human nature.
A potent telling of the Mayan creation myth leads to a surprising array of images and the idea that unless the human capacity for technological invention can be placed in service of the ongoing story of creation, we will continue to turn the natural world against us.
We are most human and most alive when we allow ourselves to be touched by the beauty of the world and when we feel genuine gratitude for the life we have been given, no matter how hard or how dark the world around us may become. In this way, feeling grateful and expressing gratitude helps to bring grace back into the world.
Michael Meade answers the question of why he often delves into the territory of the soul. At a time when it seems the whole world is falling apart, and we seem to lack the capacity to deal with unprecedented problems occurring in both nature and culture, Meade points to soul as a deep place of untapped resources. He then draws upon the personal experience of his own world turning upside down to show how the greatest resources of life are found in the depths of the human soul.
No matter what threats and disasters occur at the surface of life, the underlying soul remains an endless wellspring and vital source of change and renewal. In these times of great fear and trouble, it becomes our work to bring to the world this hidden abundance, for when we see with the eyes of the soul, every event, inner or outer, can be seen to have meaning.
This episode of comes directly on the heels of the midterm election and the chaotic events and unfortunate tragedies that followed in the aftermath. Michael Meade leads us from the immediate news to the ground of myth in order to better understand the nature of the chaos and confusion currently afflicting the entire culture. Meade opens up the old idea of “metanoia” which involves both personal and collective levels of transformation that not only cause a change of mind, but also involve moving the mind closer to the heart, and therefore touching humanity’s deep capacity for healing and change.
Michael Meade begins with the latest tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. He then moves to the procession of poverty and oppression travelling from Central America and the troubling election of a would be dictator in Brazil. At that point, Meade tries to answer an impassioned question posed by a young person, “How do we keep from losing all hope?” In discussing hope and despair, Meade reminds us that “wisdom begins where simple hopes run out and where despair darkens our sight.” He concludes by imagining where the deepest resources of the human soul reside and where the hidden unity of life can be found again.
Shakespeare said, “There is nothing more confining than the prison we don’t know we are in". One way of recognizing the prison we are currently in is to see how the world is made smaller as those who happen to hold power try to reduce the world while at the same time using “big lies” in order to dominate it. Michael Meade reminds us that we are citizens of two worlds, one being the daily world now troubled by growing oppositions and intensifying conflicts, and the other being the realm of the soul with its capacity for imagination, understanding and wisdom. We must draw on the deep resources of the human soul to make the world bigger again.
We are now being called upon to vote for truth and meaning and genuine understanding at the level of the daily world; but we are also being called to vote from the depths of our souls for a bigger world that brings nature and culture back together and awakens the many ways we each can contribute to the healing of both.
Michael Meade tells on old story from India about the creation of the world. In it, an ancient sage named Markandeya is caught in the tension between creation and wonder, despair and loss. His existential crisis speaks to the world we live in now with its increasing levels of fear and despair. Addressing the two great fears - fear of abandonment and the fear of being overwhelmed – Meade talks about how easily we can get lost in despair if we don’t know there is something essential in the ground of our being. He suggests that this story, and all the old stories, remind us that every soul born comes in with genius capacities, natural gifts and a unique way of being – a fundamental quality that serves as an antidote to feelings of discouragement, fear and anxiety.
Michael Meade reflects that he increasingly hears how a sense of discouragement has engulfed all kinds of people. To be discouraged means “to lose heart, to become disheartened,” and therefore lose the spirit for life. It makes sense to feel that way with the ever increasing size of storms that are simultaneously rocking politics, culture and nature. In order to survive the current storms and troubles we need to turn to the deep resources of the soul. In this radical time of collapse and renewal we have to find ways to reconnect to the Soul of the World and tap into the deep resources of renewal that underlie both Nature and culture.
“The great moments in life are existential crises—moments that challenge all aspects of society and all levels of human awareness. We have entered such an extended moment of radical change.”
On this episode, Michael Meade brings a mythological perspective and a soulful attention to the issues of power and abuse in modern culture. He reminds us that old ideas require that those who sit in judgement not simply claim to gather facts, but also must be vulnerable and open to genuine feelings and the deeper meanings that both underlie and transcend the facts. In this period of cultural crises, more acts of truth may be required to generate a “force of truth” to break through the gates of “dominance and denial”.
On this episode, drawn from a recent interview on the Embodiment Matters Podcast, Michael Meade talks about embodiment, “lunar knowledge,” and the many different ways of bodily knowing. He explores the importance and challenges of ritual practice in modern culture and how “ritual is creative work and not necessarily repetitive work.” Drawing on a pivotal experience from his youth, Meade then talks about the innate genius each of us carries, and how the way we respond to crises individually and collectively is, hopefully, to awaken the soul and live out our inner wisdom.
On this episode, Michael Meade discusses the core themes of his newly released book Awakening the Soul. Beginning with the question “How does a person respond to a troubled world,” Meade describes how the human soul harbors deep and creative resources that tend to awaken when we find ourselves in big trouble. Something deep and meaningful is trying to awaken at both the individual and cultural levels. When truth is missing in the public discourse it is waiting to be found as the “lived truth” of the awakening soul.
“In hard times, inner changes must precede changes to outer circumstances,” says Michael Meade on a recent interview on KBOO public radio in Portland, OR. Drawing from themes and ideas in his new book “Awakening the Soul”, Meade tells an old story from Egypt of a scribe who struggled to find meaning in a troubled world. The struggle to find the ground of being and awaken from the sleep of the daily world was there in ancient times, just as it can so commonly be found today. Finding the currents of the ancient tale throughout our history, Meade suggests that the greatest challenge has always been the risk of becoming ourselves in a world that is trying to turn us into everyone else.
This episode begins with the announcement of Michael Meade’s new book “Awakening the Soul: A Deep Response to a Troubled World”. The new book explores the impact of cultural and environmental upheaval on the human soul. It also addresses the loss of truth and meaning and feelings of despair so easily experienced at this time.
In this podcast, Meade describes how the book began, and how it changed during the course of the writing due to inspirations appearing in the middle of the night. Using the key metaphor of awakening the inner eyes of the soul, Meade elucidates the meaning of “Awakening the Soul”, and uses that perspective to show how the crisis of truth and meaning must be solved before we can effectively deal with the humanitarian and environmental crises that affect the entire planet.