Monday, 6 November 2017

The Mythological, Archetypes as Metaphor and Spiritual Thinking

Let fear sharpen your senses. Let it cut then let it pass.
There are times when it is possible to recognise in people, or in ourselves, standard behavioural responses. Through experience you can recognise aspects of a persons' character and model and predict aspects of their behaviour. We can also model aspects of social behaviour as interactions between archetypal personality types. The clash between the left and the right for example or the atheist and the Christian or the struggle between nations or culture wars in general. You can predict behaviour patterns based on knowing some common, shared, aspect of identity taken on and expressed through the personality of individuals. How good are we at reading the signs of the times?

So archetypal personalities are a way of modelling the "meta-behaviour" of groups. Imagining, conceiving of, human behaviour in this way is a metaphor, a higher level abstraction of human behaviour modelled in terms of human behaviour. These are the archetypes that Jung described.

So we can see the spiritual imaginings of humanity, our gods and mythologies, as higher order ways of thinking about psychological reality (the makeup of the human psyche as it is expressed collectively). This is why I say that as "Remover of Obstacles" Ganesh is the archetype of the engineer. Of course if I succeed in having you even think about it then it starts to become true.

As all of our perception is the work of the mind, the imagination if you will, then our perception of "external reality" is the product of mind. Our worldview exists in our mind, and as we get our perception of ourselves at least partly from how we reflect from the responses of others and the world around us, our world view is inextricably intertwined with our ego. Within ourselves we are not separate from the world around us.

If our understanding of myth has life within us, and if they mythological therefore becomes part of our worldview and a lense through which we see aspects of life, then our spiritual sight is our higher level understanding of life. If that sight is shared with others then that sight has "objective" (independent of any individual) life.

Some of the tales and myths of spirituality speak of it being possible to find within reality perfect and unbounded love. As the nature of love is true beauty any expression of the nature of love must itself be beautiful or it cannot be true, you cannot express love without it being beautiful to those who know how to look. So, if this is the spiritual system you ascribe to, the language of spirituality becomes the language of expressing the nature of love. The only possible expression of a philosophy of love is in art; truth expressed as beauty, revealing love.

Intriguingly, if there is any truth in this then interaction with the spiritual may reflect corresponding changes in human behaviour or yield understanding of human behaviour. 

But how do we get there? Like any field of human understanding that has no defined empirical approach (yet - although as an abstract topic, similar to maths, reason may well be that approach) Sturgeon's law applies. Most of what is said about spirituality is nonsense. It is understandable therefore that most people in a rational age dismiss the entire topic as superfluous nonsense. Those with spiritual pretensions don't help when they spout obvious lunacy visible to anyone with a basic understanding of modern science or psychology.

With Greek, Hindu and Roman mythology alike I feel like it  is wading through a mountain of trash looking for gems. Unfortunately I also happen to be wearing glasses that are thousands of years old and see things very differently to the originators of these stories that have themselves warped and weathered under the touch of aeons. Fortunately many others with better sight and younger glasses have gone before me and I can sometimes see clearly through their vision. On this topic it is interesting to watch the current revival of Norse mythology and the Viking Gods. Not coincidentally Iceland is also emerging as a strong and good nation. Oh, and Thor is still on at the cinema.

Also note the strands of the mythological in modern tales. Transformers, thinking machines that are actually alien intelligences. The warning about AI in the Terminator franchise. The blending of the mythological, particularly voodoo, and AI in Neuromancer. Possible visions of a future humanity in Star Trek.  Possible visions of a future humanity in Star Trek. The reaching and stretching out of humanity into the future through dreamings and imaginings.

This idea is similar to the idea explored in several of Pratchett's books, that "gods" have life from the faith and devotion of their followers and that the actions of humans is an expression of the actions of gods and the actions of gods are a projection of collective human behaviour. Culture shapes and reshapes gods, angels and demons, throughout the ages. Culture is the product of the spiritual and the spiritual is part of the cultural.

So let the sight of the mythological burn with in you, yet don't believe a word of it. Feel for how it may correspond to elements of society and psyche.

According to the book of Genesis there were placed angels with flaming swords guarding the garden of Eden after the expulsion of humanity because they ate from the tee of knowledge of good and evil.

There is a wall of madness encircling the entrance to heaven. How are we to enter if that means attempting to perceive aspects of reality that are not visible to others, and scorned as madness. We know madness is real, we suspect heaven may be real. How can we get there without going mad, how are we to tell what is real and what is delusion. What does it mean for it to be real anyway?

What is the basis of your knowledge? For me it is uncertainty, but then I've already been mad. And I'd quite like a flaming sword.

Letting the spiritual have life within you, being guided by the sight of the good and the beautiful whilst not being afraid of the horror but remaining horrified by it. Being willing to believe without being willing to be taken in, requires both courage and foolishness in equal but potentially unbounded amounts.

"Calling spirituality a metaphor. Using metaphor as a metaphor. An abstraction that simplifies and reveals a more complex idea."

No comments:

Post a Comment