Through living myth we bring ourselves into accord with the rhythms of the living world. Myths are stories that tell us sacred truths without the use of facts, they are filled with instinct, intelligence, and inspiration—which speak of what and where we are. Out of this sense of location and purpose, relatedness and identity, we begin the work of discovering and disclosing who we are. In this manner we enter into a conversation, a dance, with the living world—the dancing conversation is ritual.
If humans do not cultivate an active ritual life our so-called rites of passage become mere formalities. The hidden key to an authentic ritual life is the myth-making intelligence. When myth becomes rigid and fixed it is reduced to dogma; when ritual is no longer informed by the fluidity of living-myth it is reduced to mimicry.
To cultivate the image laden syntax of myth we have to shed the constraints—blinders and harness—of the consensus “reality/sanity” model of the massman’s domesticated world view. This is much easier said than done. Because human beings are a kind of animal that require the forming of bonds to place and community, we inevitably experience feelings of alienation and exile when those bonds fail. Yet we continually make the great error of mooring our lifelines to ambition, achievement, status, influence, and possessions—aspirations which cannot anchor us to the rhythms of the living world because they are concepts, and concepts unlike images are not alive. Our relatedness to the world around us is lost because we no longer trust it.
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The great strategy of civilization has always been to build a wall of concepts and categories to keep the unknowable creatures of myth and mystery exiled and cut off from the human heart. Deprived of the fragrance and nectar of the living world, as a bird caught in glass, the soul withdraws and cloaks itself in darkness, waiting against hope for the iron gate to open and the endless wasteland of empire to break and give way. And all the while, at the center of this cultural vacuum, the ego runs amok in pursuit of countless addictions and mediocrities.
Far away from center, at the edge of the world, the walls are cracked with gaps and portals, as skin has pores. Here, in the shadow of Mount Olympus, where the Great Above and Great Below intertwine…
Where the inner world and the outer world
meet and touch… here is the seat of the soul.
At this edge, through the rites and wilds of living myth, we enter our long forgotten relatedness, wildness, and identity, traveling ever homeward, back to the living world. The wild imagination, never caged by concept, recalls the ancient longings of the migratory soul—to speak the language of wind and rock, leaf and loam—re-membering and re-storing, by rhythm and image, the meaning and magic of our authentic life.
Outside the ambitions and securities of the “steady life” the many creatured world of the “whole divine night” abounds; while inside we avert our eyes and close our ears to myth’s ever-haunting call. Yet the living world is watching and waiting, as Hölderlin said, for “people capable of sacrifice… desire people, like the ancients, strong enough for water.”
The eyes of the living world are not those of a remote impersonal deity, they are the eyes of an immanent intelligence tracking and summoning us to the hidden path. The wellsprings of life await us—we have only to take the next step.
© 2012 – 2018, Daniel Deardorff. All rights reserved.