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.
“When the world seems to lose all sense and meaning, it is usually ‘mythic sense' that is missing,” says Michael Meade in talking about the vital language of myth. He suggests that myth is the inside story of the world we live in, and we are each and all mythic by nature. Hearing a story awakens the mythic story living in each of us and places us in a “mythic condition” that reconnects us to the core imagination and living story at the center of our soul. Meade shows that being touched by myth carries us to the center where the world is always ending and always beginning again.
In the midst of all the issues of truth and lies in the culture, Michael Meade draws on the ancient Greek word for truth, “alethia” which translates as “not to forget.” Alethia then leads to the mythic underworld and the River Lethe, also known as the Stream of Forgetfulness or Oblivion. Not only is truth in short supply, but the Stream of Forgetfulness appears to have flooded the daily world and caused people to forget how important truth and meaning are to the human soul. Meade pulls on these ancient threads of truth and meaning to shape the idea of ‘living in truth” as a soulful response to all the “big lies” and false ideas spreading through the culture.
Michael Meade tells the story of “Eisik’s Dream” as a way of showing how dreams offer deep and surprising insight and revelation into the path our lives would follow. Bringing a dream to life means changing everything and change is most often accompanied by fear and resistance. Meade suggests that living a dream requires the courage to cross not only where others fear to go, but also to enter where we fear to tread. The dream that calls us to a greater life is also a bridge between worlds, and the depths of one’s soul must first be plumbed if the gold would be found.
Michael Meade talks about the second adventure in life and the challenges of following the path of the soul in the modern world. Touching on themes of gratitude, joy and the genius of the soul, and weaving together poetry and psychology, Meade suggests that we have little choice in the end; either we follow the dream that calls us to a greater life and become bigger and enter life more fully, or else we accept a diminished life and resign ourselves to a smaller way of being.
Beginning with the idea of “die before you die,” Meade describes how a little-death can lead to a deeper sense of knowledge and a greater appreciation for life. Our encounters with sorrow, disappointment and loss can be revalued as ways in which the ego-self dies a little and the deeper self becomes more revealed. Sharing two powerful stories and a selection of poems, Meade shows how the more thoroughly we shed false aspects of ourselves, the more we can redeem our lives and sound our unique note in the world.
This episode picks up on last week’s theme of the wise elder within. Michael Meade sings an old African song that calls for the elders to lead nature and culture home in a time of great change and uncertainty. Elders are by nature healers and also able to take on some of the weight of the world. Turning to the chaos of contemporary life, Meade presents the idea of a “lifting the veil” as a way of understanding both the tumultuous state of the world and the surprising possibilities that can become revealed amidst all the trouble.
This episode of Living Myth begins with the disturbing display of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on the world stage. After establishing the importance of truth and justice on both cultural and individual levels, Michael Meade laments the loss of elders throughout modern life. What follows is a consideration of the differences between the genuine elder and the reverse-elders, who destroy ideals and are unable to enhance life. Meade then turns to the idea of the soul’s adventure and the necessity of people at this time to find the inner sage and wise elder in their heart no matter what their age might be.
Starting with the idea that everything is interconnected, Michael Meade begins this episode with a commentary on the rescue of the group of boys from the caves in Thailand. He then uses the metaphor of being lost in the darkness and trapped in a labyrinth to consider how we all have fears of the dark and longings to be rescued from the anxieties of life. Somehow, Nasruddin, the wise fool from Sufi tales shows up, and the search begins for an essential key that has been lost in the dark. Not only do we pray for the rescue of the boys trapped in the dark, we also seek the courage to face our own darkness and find our own key to greater understanding.
In these times of chaos and confusion, when things seem to be falling apart, Michael Meade reminds us of the old idea that when you are going down, the best approach is to dive deeper. He then begins a story in which we follow two orphaned children down into the underworld. In the surprising village under the earth, which can also been seen as the collective human psyche, critical ceremonies occur that involve the gifts and wounds of the soul. Certain golden qualities are native to each soul, yet a descent is required to reveal these inner gifts. On the other hand, a careful cleansing and healing of whatever is wounded in a person must also take place. Healing the wounds and polishing the gold are the rituals of self-discovery and growth necessary for each person; they are also the model for how to deal with anyone who takes power in a group or a culture.
Michael Meade addresses two questions sent in by listeners. The first, “Why are you always saying a person’s gifts and wounds are connected?” leads to a wide ranging discussion on the concept that everyone in this world is gifted and everyone is wounded. Each person’s gifts are god given or innate, yet are rarely recognized by their own family. Each of us has to leave home in order to have our gifts recognized and find a genuine path in life. The second listener asks “How can finding my own soul possibly help with all the problems in the world?” Meade answers by describing the role of individual genius in changing collective life and explaining how we may be more in need of the genius myth than the hero's myth.
Beginning with the whiplash effect of rapidly changing stories and disturbing dramas of this time, Michael Meade takes up the issues of collective anxiety and increasing rates of suicide in contemporary life. He describes how a loss of soul at the collective level of life leads to increasing levels of cruelty and inhumanity. At the same time, the loss of soul creates isolation and alienation, pushing more people to the margins of life and the edges of despair. Meade concludes with the idea that we are each in a struggle for the connective power of the soul, individually, nationally and, given the global turbulence, we are in a struggle for the Soul of the World.
Hey Living Myth listeners, thank you for being a part of this podcast. We wanted to let you know about the Living Myth Premium Podcast, a new offering from Mosaic that gives members access to additional content beyond the free weekly edition of the podcast. Go to mosaicvoices.org or livingmyth.org to learn more and become a member. Your membership helps grow Living Myth and ensures we are able to continue developing and expanding this creative project. To give you a flavor of the premium content, we have included an excerpt from the first bonus episode.
Part two of Thresholds of Initiation picks up Michael Meade’s story of imprisonment and eventual confinement in a solitary cell. A fascinating part of the narration occurs when the idea of fasting arises, not simply as a way of protesting, but as a way of demonstrating that a radical change in life was underway. This leads to the idea of radical initiation, the role of rites of passage in traditional cultures, and the concept of initiation being not only valuable, but vital in this time of radical change and confusion.
“We live in betwixt and between times,” says Michael Meade, as he considers the uncertainty and disorientation that so often characterize contemporary life. After drawing connections to ancient ideas of the thresholds of initiation, Meade tells an unusual and deeply personal story from his own youth. The result is a rare look into the territory of initiation where trials and obstacles can lead to a deeper understanding of the nature and purpose of one’s life.
In part two of the ancient story of Indra and the Two Worlds, we learn that Indra, having become disillusioned with what most people call the real world, becomes a renunciate, spending his time in meditation and contemplation. Meanwhile, the daily world falls apart as conflicts intensify and chaos spreads, leading Queen Shachi to realize that enlightened leadership must be brought back to the world. Michael Meade's interpretation of the story includes how we each relate to issues of empowerment and abdication, disillusionment with the world as well as the significance of the Bodhisattva concept.
The wisdom of myth says that all of this has happened before; leaders have misused power, justice has been turned upside down and people have been left in despair. In the first episode of a two-part podcast, Michael Meade draws upon an ancient and compelling myth from India that considers the dangers and distortions of misguided leadership. Lord Indra is possessed by the idea of winning at all costs and being ruler of the entire world. In order to avert a worldwide catastrophe, he must be shocked into a greater state of awareness.
“In the depths of the soul we are each an ‘old soul’ able to survive the troubles of the world, and also able to contribute to its healing and renewal.” So says, Michael Meade on this episode, drawn from a recent radio interview. Starting with the intrigues of both spirit and soul, the conversation turns to ways to navigate the maze of life when the world seems to go upside down and truth becomes hard to find. Using many insights from mythic imagination, Meade offers medicines and antidotes to the current conditions of the world. He also warns, “Either we are following spirit and growing more soul or we can find ourselves shrinking from life.”
Michael Meade responds to three questions people continually ask him: Are people unwittingly playing with worldwide disaster by pulling out of nuclear agreements, climate accords and trade alliances? Why are people so readily polarized and ready to demonize whoever doesn’t agree with them? And why are so many people falling into conspiracy theories and delusional fantasies? Surprisingly, all three questions are answered with the same ancient notion that sometimes everything must go upside down before things can turn around again. Sometimes we have to face the chaos in order to find paths to renewal.
The Greek word for truth is alethia, which translates as “not to forget”. In that sense, the loss of truth and the rise of falsity in modern life represents a great cloud of forgetting. In this episode, Michael Meade goes searching for truth and meaning in the old myths of the underworld where a person could find themselves caught between Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness or Oblivion, and Mnemosyne, the River of Great Memory and imagination. In a world turned upside down, the underworld stream of forgetfulness and lies floods the daily world. Finding the truth will mean remembering the deep values of humanity and the living stream of imagination that can renew all of life.
“Regardless of the conditions of the outside world, we are each here to transform our own lives from the inside and become a full expression of our unique soul.” So says Michael Meade when he talks about one of his favorite stories, The Tiger’s Whisker. This episode of Living Myth includes a full telling of the famous tale of a woman who must face a living tiger in order to cure the ailment in her soul. What begins as a small village tale opens up to become the endless territory of the human heart that harbors an old sage, a fierce tiger and the need to find a cure for love. In a world troubled with collective anxiety and growing fears, it is helpful to know that on a path with heart, fear is the guide and what you truly love is the cure.
The world is so flooded with change, it becomes difficult to keep abreast of radical climate changes, shifts in technology, and all the scandals and revelations of politics. Michael Meade suggests that being an “agent of change” may not be enough to affect life in meaningful ways. He proposes becoming “agents of creation” who can help tip the scales away from destruction and towards ongoing creation. Following a teaching story in which an old man reviews his life, the point becomes that genuine transformation must begin in the depths of our individual souls, for what truly changes the soul, also changes the world.
In considering the amount of despair and suffering in the world that manifests as increased anxiety, depression and widespread addictions, Michael Meade takes up two contrary views of the human soul. The modern view of a blank slate or empty soul contributes to the growth of isolation and despair. The older sense of myth and imagination holds that each soul is unique and seeded with meaning and purpose. Meade uses an ancient story of the origin of one’s lot in life to illustrate the importance of having a felt sense of a unique soul inhabiting each person who enters the world.