Looking Deeper into Who You Are

“Behind each and every interpretation of the tale is the tale. The tale provides the invisible backdrop against which all analyses parade their brilliance. Myth lies behind every account we give of it, and it gives no account of itself. Myths fall back on invisibility.” –James Hillman, “The Soul’s Code.”

sunandmoonIn “The Soul’s Code,” James Hillman writes that each of us has a calling, a mission or objective we are here to accomplish. This calling cannot be documented or measured by mainstream science. Instead, it calls back on “invisibles” as Hillman calls them–the “something more” behind the empirical facts and hard science the mainstream world knows and loves.

In Lawrence Durrell’s novel “Balthazar,” one of the characters states that we live our lives based on selected fictions.

One might suggest that these fictions–the invisible things we deeply sense and believe about ourselves but cannot necessarily prove in the harsh light of day–when looked at all at once may provide clues about our calling. Behind everything we do, there is not only a series of stories, but a profound, personal myth.

If we are accustomed to reading mythology as pseudo-history, an approximation or fanciful version of historical events, or in any other literal way, we are missing the tale behind the tale. In looking deeper into the each tale, one finds–whether through the commentaries of experts, one’s own study of symbols and cosmology, or our personal intuition–a grander story that imparts a cosmic lesson.

Unless you are a teacher and/or student of mythology, the discovery of the lessons that are important in your life and that impact your calling–the secret and invisible knowledge–will happen in part by pondering the myths that keep drawing you back into the books in which you find them.

That is to say, your calling is always calling you to the things you need. If you need to know what’s important about Pandora or Theseus or the Argonauts, you will be drawn to these myths. When you acknowledge that you are constantly intrigued by one myth or another, you have an opportunity for looking deeper and discovering clues about where your path lead.

October Give-Away: Leave a comment on this post on my Sun Singer’s Travels blog for a chance to win a free audio copy of Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.



Odysseys – multiple adventures

We can’t see the word odyssey without thinking of the epic Greek poem attributed to Homer that begins (in Robert Fagles’ translation):

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.

Indeed, the word stems from Odysseus’ trip, meaning a long and wandering physical or spiritual quest with multiple adventures and changes of fortune.

My novel Garden of Heaven is subtitled “an Odyssey” because protagonist David Ward ends up in many places with many people before returning to the Montana ranch where he grew up.

The novel has multiple locations: Glacier National Park, the Florida Panhandle, Chicago, Hawai’i, the Philippines, the Netherlands, central Illinois, Pakistan, and the Gulf of Tonkin. In each place, new problems and adventures occur.

But there are some common themes. One is his first lover’s relentless quest for revenge which is caused by a problem of which David is unaware. Another is David’s spiritual journey which begins on a vision quest in Glacier National Park and then haunts and inspires him from one end of his odyssey to the other. And, like Homer’s Odysseus, David also has a way with words, though it remains to be seen whether this is more of a blessing than a curse.

Untangling the lies and truths strewn throughout his journey will take David quite a few years. In the process, he will serve aboard an aircraft carrier, climb one of the most difficult mountains in the world, work as a professor at a small college, and consort with horses, eagles and ravens. Garden of Heaven is not one adventure, it’s many. And, as in “real life,” David’s good fortune often looks like bad fortune, and vice versa.

Garden of Heaven is available as an e-book from OmniLit for $5.99.

For more information about Garden of Heaven, see my August 3, 2010 interview on BookBuzzr.

Fighting the Scrambled Mandala

“A labyrinth, of course, is a scrambled mandala, in which you don’t know where you are. That’s the way the world is for people who don’t have a mythology. It’s a labyrinth. They are battling their way through as if no one had ever been there before.” – Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

My clinical depression is a scrambled mandala.

The formerly clear road has twisted itself into a labyrinth. The air has become more dense than water. I can’t breathe, nor do I want to.

I once believed I was either too smart or too stupid to become clinically depressed. My journey (way, pilgrimage, path) appeared so clear to me that the next step was always apparent whether it came to me out of logic or intuition. Where I was going didn’t matter, for I was en route. Perhaps these was a certain arrogance to such certainty in spite of the fact that—Kabbalistically speaking—certainty is what each of us requires to manifest our highest dreams.

But logically, we’re easily addicted to trends, small, but negative ripples in the force, so to speak, that when they follow upon one another cause us to doubt our certainties, our passions, and even the road itself. Experience has taught me, though, that when the mandala becomes scrambled, it only becomes more scrambled if I fight it. And, depression itself is the same in this respect. What one resists, persists, we are told. When I fight those moments when the air has become more dense than water, I find myself sinking deeper into the ocean of hopelessness where the pressure and the darkness are greater.

The more scrambled the mandala becomes, the more difficult it is to find Ariadne’s linen thread that will lead me away from the dreaded Minotaur to the light-hearted safety of the world outside the labyrinth. When depression is deep, I have neither the willpower nor the energy to search for that thread, much less build wings like Daedalus, the labyrinth’s designer, and fly out of the maze of twisted roads.

Getting Above the Fray

I like the title of Kris Jackson’s 2009 novel about the Civil War era balloonist Thaddeus Lowe, “Above the Fray.” It was so apt, for it described exactly the service Professor Lowe was offering Union commanders. He showed them what they couldn’t see on the ground from what—in my perspective—might also be called the labyrinth of the battlefield.

Like both Lowe and Daedalus, there are times when I want to rise above the fray and get my bearings. Lowe was an advocate of tethered balloons, and shortly after reading Kris Jackson’s novel, I had an opportunity for a brief ride in a tethered balloon. How light the air was and how fine the view of the fields and woodlands below. What might have appeared scrambled from within, now was clear, even orderly.

Like Daedalus, I am the creator of my own labyrinth and—on days when the air is denser than water—my own scrambled mandala. I have been there many times because, I suppose, it meets a need I do not consciously know. I’m lost into the clutches of deep lunar mysteries and the dark worlds of the underworld that my subconscious mind has led me to experience. Truth be told, I’m embarrassed to be there, to have to admit that my apparent certainty about the clear road ahead as led me into the forest primeval where I wander blindly as though there is no road at all.

Once my shame passes, I see that there is much of value here in the scrambled mandala I have built and the hopelessly dense air I have placed with its clutches. I know better than to fight it. Fighting it makes me too heavy to fly above the fray and too sleepy to see Ariadne’s thread.

I have escaped from my labyrinths many times. Though there should be a fair amount of certainty in that, I never remember it while I’m staring into the Minotaur’s eyes. My goal is the goal I gave protagonist Robert Adams in my novel “The Sun Singer,” and that is to survive the journey and to return to the known world with something of value for myself and others.

The scrambled mandalas are my nightmares, the places where the road has become twisted, the places where I think I’m awake even though I’m asleep. But when I wake and see the morning sunlight, and it’s “whew, that’s over,” and for now I’m not depressed and I see my reasons again for wanting to be on the journey I have chosen to take.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “The Sun Singer,” a mandala masquerading as a novel.

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