Myth involves the underlying stories and secret histories of the soul. It helps reveal, not the facts of the matter, but the facts of life. Myth makes meaning of our life experiences. In that sense, myth is both ancient and immediate; it involves both remembering and making anew. When our experience increasingly involves feeling caught in confusions, restrictions and maddening twists and turns, mythic imagination can give us a poetic grasp of our own lives a s well as the world we live in.
Ancient myths of the labyrinth depict both being trapped in a complicated maze and following a thin thread that leads the way out. At this point, the contemporary world can seem a topsy-turvy labyrinth of confusion that we are all caught in. At the same time, Ariadne is always nearby, eternally offering us the thread of our own soul, which is the clue to how we find our way through life's obstacles and confusions.
Part of the worldwide labyrinth we are all caught within involves a pair of universally present, yet deeply contrasting myths. One saga involves epic tales of progress with the human species seen as climbing up from a primitive state to an enlightened condition. This “myth of progress” becomes a story of steady triumph over all obstacles with a goal of reaching a place of freedom from all limitations. When combined with ideas of evolution, many people simply believe that this heroic storyline is the essential human birthright and all that we need to know.
Yet, here on Earth, where things are paired like light and dark or up and down, there is a contradictory myth. The “myth of decline” begins with an ideal, golden age followed by a fall into descending periods of darkness and disorder. Under this narrative, all that people can look forward to is a collapse of the current civilization and its ruling ideas and a loss of order and civility as the energy of the world wears down, and the lights of creation go dim.
Each story can be seen as archetypal, each forming part of the natural inheritance of human imagination. Is there progress of some kind? Or is the whole thing going to hell in a hand basket? The answer is: Yes. For, each narrative depicts something essential about life on earth. We are the inheritors of both narratives and we are being asked to become conscious of both stories at the same time. That is part of the revelation of now, part of the apocalypse of now, and in many ways, part of awakening to the story of now.
If we willfully insist on the myth of progress, we are closing our eyes to all of the pain, loss and dissolution being suffered all over the earth at the level of climate crisis and the COVID crisis, at the level of the social disparities and the crisis of truth and meaning. If we take the myth of decline as a kind of nihilistic philosophy, that allows us to say there's nothing we can do, it's all just going to end any way. Then we are turning a blind eye to the presence of Ariadne's thread, and the continual invitation to find another way to see the dilemma and become part of the reweaving of the next version of the world.
From the place where our own souls try to awaken again and again, we can contribute to making meaning of the world we are in, no matter how chaotic it becomes. For chaos is connected to the imminence of creation. In the realm of myth, chaos is both the state that occurs at the end and also the state that occurs before things begin anew. We are being asked to be part of the creative tension of opposing energies and opposite stories that can lead to revelations about the living world and our role in assisting it to both come to an end and begin again.
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