Tag: Joseph Campbell

Being a Shaman – for self and others

1 Comment

Devil-dancers-sri-lanka-435x279 
Image from Lankapura.com

The word “shaman” may bring to your mind images of medicine men in colorful outfits, dancing around a fire to the beat of tribal drums, much like the image of Sri Lankan devil mask dancers, above.  And you’d be right, though you’d be getting only part of the picture.

The REASON they do all of that is to get past our attachment to the “real” world and connect to our inner workings–to help us travel the landscape of our hearts and souls and make us whole in mind, body and spirit

Now for you and me, their performance probably would not work. This is because they’re not speaking our cultural or symbolic language.  To do that, they’d have to tap into our religious and spiritual beliefs, our cultural upbringing and the images we see in our dreams. 

Wikipedia describes shaman as “intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds… Shamans are said to treat illness by mending the soul…[which] restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness.” They also said “Cultural anthropology approaches shamanism as an integral part of the study of culture, belief, and practice.”

So who are the shaman of our modern Western culture?  Who guides us through the realm of dreams, symbols, metaphor and stories to help us make choices in our lives?  Joseph Campbell said it’s the artists—painters, poets, singers, dancers, actors, directors, comedians, etc.  They take inspiration, which is a message from the spirit world, and communicate it in a language we understand.  And when they really get it right, it not only entertains, but touches our hearts and inspires us.  (Of course, that’s not always their goal.)

 Joseph-campbellHeroes-CmyssArchetypes

Joseph Campbell and Caroline Myss both have said that in today’s world, it is up to us to find our own way through our spiritual landscape.  We have to be responsible for the well-being of our own souls. In other words, we need to become our own shaman.

Read More

Economy and Environment Conspire to Change us for the Better

No Comments

It seems to me that the environment and the economy are conspiring to force us to change…for the better.

An ethnography professor studying the effects of You Tube on society says that people are reaching out for connection and community, but because we’ve all become such individualists, it is increasingly difficult to find.

The environment has been encouraging us to grow our own vegetables, ride our bicycles, use solar power, and recycle. And the economy may be forcing us to do this by sharing expenses and resources by moving in with family members or friends.

Read More

Spiritual Metaphors 4 Life ~ Hero’s Journey

No Comments

Life is like a heroic journey. You are the hero of your own life story. There are always challenges and monsters, but there are helpers and guides too. After we cross into the unknown, we find that we have more inside us then we realized. Then we return home from our spiritual adventure to find that we have changed and we bring something new to old circumstances. Herosjourney 

The heroic life is living the individual adventure.
~ Joseph Campbell

Synchronicity, Symbolism & Giant Stone People

No Comments

I recently experienced one of those moments when it seems that a glimpse of the grand design is revealed, even if only for a second, in seemingly insignificant ways. It happens to me every now and then, and yet it still surprises and excites me, and inspires me to believe that there is a purpose and a synchronicity in operation beyond what I am able to see and understand.

I was at the doctor’s office, and since I expected to wait for over an hour if not two, I brought some books to read that can be expected to have a fair amount of overlap.  “Man and His Symbols”—an exploration of Carl Jung’s work with the subconscious, and “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers”—which is based on Joseph Campbell’s study of the Hero's Journey in “Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

Jung’s colleague, ML von Franz, explained that the Self is often symbolized by stone—perhaps because they are complete, unchanging and lasting. “Many people cannot refrain from picking up stones of a slightly unusual color or shape and keeping them, without knowing why they do this. It is as if the stones held a living mystery that fascinates them. Men have collected stones since the beginning of time….”

Buddha-galVihara She says that this is why practically all civilizations have the urge to erect stone monuments to local saints or heroes, on the site of important or religious events, or to express an otherwise inexpressible experience. From the alchemist’s Philosopher’s Stone to the Ka’aba in Mecca, from huge stone Buddhas to Mount Rushmore, people are moved to create and identify with stone monuments.

Then I read in The Writer’s Journey: “the Statue of Liberty is a recurring symbol of the immigrant dream, a lighthouse beckoning the newcomer… The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the people of America , is a colossal example of the ancient practice of sending statues of gods and goddesses from a founding city to its colonies to connect them by a psychic thread, a religious tie. …”

More giant stone people!

This particular passage I was reading was a mythical analysis of the film “Titanic” and the ideas of the time in which it was set. Moments later, as I pondered the synchronicity of the ideas, I could hear Celine Dion singing the theme from Titanic over the waiting room TV. Weird!

Or is it just that I was in that moment, at the right place, at the right time, and I was open to all that it could bring? I think perhaps I was.

Written exclusively for symbolicthemes.com

Why “Symbolic Themes”?

No Comments

A friend of mine once asked me “Why Symbolic Themes?”

I told him that it’s how my mind works. I see thematic patterns in the symbols around me, and I use it to guide me through life. But I’ve just found further justification for my choice of blog names in a book called “Man and His Symbols” edited by eminent psychologist, Carl Jung.

It’s a book that explains Jung’s philosophy in laypeople’s terms so that non-academics can play along at home. Basically, Jung believed that our subconscious communicates with us in the language of symbols and archetypes that have appealed to people throughout history. He also believed that by paying attention to our dreams, and our responses to the symbols we encounter around us, we can interpret the intuitive guidance we have within us.

Here’s the quote that made me think I was on the right track with the name for this blog that I had already chosen, years ago:

“…the great writers are able to transcend the differences of time and place and express themes that are universal. We respond because these themes are fundamentally symbolic.”

I love to talk about those universal similarities that transcend time and place! (And I aspire to be a great writer someday too). All great artists transcend time and place when their work touches something in their audience that resonates within them.

What led me to read "Man and His Symbols" was a quest to find where my work and chosen area of study fits in the world. I found some Masters Degree courses in Transpersonal Psychology, and though I can't take them the way I want to right now, I found that Jung is at the bottom of it all. So I decided to educate myself. Many of his ideas are already so familiar to me, but I learned them from people who built upon his work, like Joseph Campbell and Carolyn Myss

Here’s the description from the back of MY book, Echoes Across Time:

Backofbook

“Mara is a woman on a mission… to follow the unraveling trail of meaning behind her symbolic dreams while trying to save her best friend from self-destruction.

Part spiritual adventure, part feminist fairy tale, this modern-day myth takes you through a mystical series of events from America to India, and on to Sri Lanka spanning four generations.

Along the way it offers metaphorical explanations for simple mysteries of our lives that make up our identities. From seemingly inexplicable friendships to exotic mixed ancestry, Mara finds the purpose behind it all. Ultimately the tale offers insight into how each of our souls has at least one connection that echoes across time.”

So though I chose the name Symbolic Themes for my work years ago, and wrote a book based on the things that fascinate me, I’m feeling pretty good about myself because without really knowing it, I have fallen very nicely within the framework of Jungian thinking! I may even be channeling Carl Gustav Jung himself!