Myth has many vital functions in life.
One function is the mystical one
of opening up a mystical dimension.
The second is the cosmological function
of relating us to the cosmos as now known
in such a way that its mystery can be experienced
so that we can relate to it with gratitude.
Third is the sociological function
of validating and maintaining the moral or ethical system
of the specific social group to which we belong;
so that when we define our social group
we define our mythology.
An identification that one makes with a group
is a mythological act.
And finally, there is the function
of carrying the individual through the crises of life
from dependency in childhood to maturity
and the realization that one is a self-responsible individual
which comes in the later years of life and forward,
to the ultimate threshold of death.
These are the services of myth.
Go to any church or synagogue
and you’ll find the clergy there
trying to support an archaic concept of the universe
against the findings of science.
Religion has been kicking against the findings of science
ever since Hellenistic times.
The first chapter of Genesis was composed at a time
when the Greeks had already measured the circumference of the earth
to within a couple of hundred miles.
It presents a deliberately archaic notion of the shape of the cosmos
and the way in which the cosmos came into being,
and then the religious system is hung onto that belief.
is a scientific finding
to which mythology must adjust.
And if not adjusted to it
there is a stress between the mythological or religious
and the actual experience of the world
which people are experiencing these days.
Look at the galaxies beyond counting
that the scientists are showing us,
literally millions of galaxies
with every galaxy a milky way of stars
and every star with a possible solar system around it
and some of these solar systems probably inhabited.
Well, what does that do to the whole history of creation
and the fall that we have in our inherited tradition?
It simply breaks it up.
are enactments of myths,
and by participating in rites,
I am participating in myth
and consequently activating the accordant structures and principles
within my own spirit or soul.
Without some kind of ritual enactment
the whole thing fails to get inside the active aspect of one’s self
unless one happens to be working through actual life problems
in terms suggested by mythological considerations.
There’s always a mystery dimension in myth
and one can’t put a ring around it.
It’s the difference between drawing a circle on the ground
and dropping a pebble into a pond
from which circles go out.
The myth drops a pebble into a pond,
telling of a certain center,
what the Navajo call the pollen path of beauty,
but it doesn’t give a definition.
What happens in dogmatic religions, however,
is that definitions are contrived
to circumscribe the myth and the ritual.
What is going on in the Catholic church now
is a disaster.
Catholics had the inheritance
of one of the greatest ritual structures ever, anywhere,
and what are they doing to it?
It’s really incredible.
Instead of simply presenting the mythic ritual beautifully,
a rich mythologically-based heritage
of beautiful, powerful ritual,
for the individual to experience in his own way,
they are destroying the rites
and insisting, instead, on doctrine and dogmas,
which tell us how we have to interpret our experience.
Doctrine and dogma simply cuts us off
from our own potential of response.
our own Transformation,
There is always an inward reference
when mythology is alive.
When contemplating iconographic structures,
I am really, by way of a mirror-reflection,
contemplating my own spirit,
my own inward truth.
But when those pictures fall away,
when they’re no longer speaking
because they have become archaic
and we are no longer in the field of experience
out of which those pictures came,
there then comes a need for an inward search
directly on the part of the individual.
An inward turn, then,
is the only resort for the individual,
he find his religion inside
and that’s what’s happening to us right now.
The authority of the inherited religions
is now in question.
Christianity and Judaism are on the rocks,
at least for many of the young people in our culture.
We have to build our own experience
of the deeper dimension of our lives
with the guidance of art.
Great art is as useful a guide to mythological dimensions
as anything we have;
it’s much better today than our churches.
Theology treats the source of our transformation
as though the source were outside somewhere.
The truly spiritual way
is to recognize that the source is inside,
We find this same message in certain modes of Christianity.
The enigmatic saying of Jesus
that the kingdom of heaven is within
intended this same sort of idea.
When I have this view,
I rest, so to say, in myself,
in my deepest part within the bounds,
to use theological terms,
And God speaks to me from within myself.
When I throw my childhood image of God away,
I immediately recognize that whatever the power is
that we speak of as divine
operates from within
as the source,
and I can have faith in my own nature,
my True Self,