What is a myth anyway? The first thing we think of in our culture is something made up, possibly false or make believe. To indigenous cultures around the world, a myth is something far different. In fact, a myth is the foundation of the cultural existence.Creation myths or stories tell the origin of that particular culture or tribes beginnings, often depicting grand events of creation. In a sense even Bible stories are mythological in terms of their creation story. Every culture has an original story, which they believe to be true. These origin stories are passed down from one generation to the next, usually as an oral history.
The shaman or elders of the tribes and cultures impart the story, and it lives deep within the listeners psyche. It is believed that without a story, we cannot survive because we need a foundation of how we arrived and a framework of what we might have come to do.
Stories captivate us and they feed our spirit as well. We know how important stories are to children’s psychological development. In the United States, we have numerous stories because we are a mix of so many different cultural families. We are challenged to accept each others story, way of life and differences. Somehow this grand social experiment (America) has lasted more than 200 years. Tolerance and acceptance have been keys to our mythology. However, even as we have numerous stories from around the world right here in our back yard, we still had something of a general myth as well. Freedom, upward mobility, racial equality (more recently) women’s rights, and the knowledge that we could do or be anything we chose to become with dedication, hard work and some luck. And as Americans, we took special pride in what we produced and had integrity and identity based on our myth of the “American Dream”. We almost had a cultural naivety for many decades, when we were doing so well after the Depression.
Something began to change as upward mobility increased at lightening speed, production increased, the technological revolution hit, and air travel made it possible to go anywhere and do anything. We became global and the whole world changed along with us. Boundaries were shattered through technology and we charged ahead unharnessed. Money was easy to make from a global perspective and we could penetrate any civilization on the face of the earth with our dollar and “mythology.” And we did. In the last two decades or so, the concept of a “logo” has become part of our collective psyche along with its identification to a product.
This profound visual imagery linked our minds to our pocketbooks, bypassing reason and checkbook balance. It was said even in the 1980s that 80 percent of all money spent hadn’t even been earned yet. The power of the American dollar and its requisite accompaniments pervaded the world. Our “myth” globalized and forever changed. Corporate greed evolved and spread like wildfire and the world took hold of the “dream.” And our government has become corporatized also.
In one of my Master’s classes, we were having a discussion of mythology and talking about Joseph Campbell, the famous mythologist. Dr. Campbell urged us in the 1980s to recreate a new mythology for our culture, and we were trying to comprehend what he meant.
Our brilliant teacher answered our query by saying that “we must make a new myth because our current one is consumerism.”
Wow! That statement still rings hard in my head; as we no longer sit at the feet of the shaman or elder of the tribe to tell us our beautiful creation stories or living myths that give us meaning and purpose. We now sadly sit at feet of the corporations to feed us the truth, with logos supporting the visual myths. And the world is on board.
We are truly challenged to cultivate new meaning and myth that is based on spiritual evolvement green energy, eco-psychology and our capacity to once again be satiated and satisfied with much less material wealth. This extraordinary challenge is at hand. Can we do it?
Deborah Heartwood has a Master’s Degree in Creation Spirituality and a Master’s in transpersonal Psychology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805-556-0268 if anyone would like to discuss a “new myth”.