Sunday, February 20, 2005
The Mythic Imagination Institute's scheduled "Into the Woods" retreat (mentioned in an earlier post) has been cancelled. Too bad. It had a great group of seminar leaders and speakers lined up including David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous). Perhaps we'll have another opportunity in the future.
The Sun Singer is listed among the first-novel nominees for the Georgia Writers Association's 41st Author of the Year Awards at http://www.georgiawriters.org/41stnominees.htm. The winners will be announced June 4 at the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta.
Thought for Today
"An alder leaf, loosened by the wind, is drifting out with the tide. As it drifts, it bumps into the slender leg of a great blue heron staring intently through the rippled surface, then drifts on. The heron raises one leg out of the water and replaces it, a single step. As I watch I, too, am drawn into the spread of silence. Slowly a bank of cloud approaches, slipping its bulged and billowing texture over the earth, folding the heron and the alder trees and my gazing body ito the depths of a vast breathing being, enfolding us all within a common flesh, a common story now bursting with rain." -- David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
The ultimate boon--as Joseph Campbell calls it--available to the hero on the quest is his or her triumph over physical and psychological limitations, including the integration of all pairs of opposites, until “the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form—all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void.” (2)
This transformation can be represented by an old eagle myth (3) that a devout and humble philosopher/mystic can stare directly into the secrets of God just as a heavenly eagle can stare directly into the sun. The more pessimistic theologians believed, and possibly still believe, that any such quest is vain and that those who try will fall to earth in flames as Icarus whose feathers melted when he flew too close to the sun.
Imprisoned in the Labyrinth at Crete, Daedalus and his son Icarus flew toward freedom on wings made of wax. Daedalus, who cautioned his son to carefully follow the “middle way,” made it to the far shore while his arrogant son perished.
In myth, the eagle’s feathers—rather than its wings—are burned off by the sun after which the bird dives into a fountain (or the sea) and surfaces with renewed youth and plumage and more acute vision. Christian theologians, writers and artists at the time of the Renaissance associated this myth with piety, baptism, and a renewed life in Christ. (You will find eagles on old baptismal fonts.)
In her book about eagles in Glacier National Park (the setting used for The Sun Singer), Dorothy Hinshaw Patent notes that eagles and hawks have sharper vision than any other animal. “They can see a small animal, such as a rabbit or mouse, moving in the grass from a mile away.” (4) Their molting, however, is not instantaneous—as in the myth—and may take a year’s period of time.
In following the middle way, heroes, seekers, mystics and other philosophers, emulate the eagle of myth by casting off their old egotistical, reactive and judgemental ways until they are transformed and receive the ultimate boon. The sixth Beatitude equates sight and purity: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (5)
Of the hero’s ultimate boon, Joseph Campbell writes:
“The gods and goddesses then are to be understood as embodiments and custodians of the elixir of Imperishable Being but not themselves the Ultimate in its primary state. What the hero seeks through his intercourse with them is therefore not finally themselves, but their grace, i.e., the power of their sustaining substance. This miraculous energy-substance and this alone is the Imperishable.”
(1) In The Sun Singer, Robert Adams plunges into water and subsequently changes clothes as his name changes from Sunny Trout to Osprey to Eagle. What is the significance of this in light of the eagle myth and the transformative inner journey of the hero on the path?
(2) Robert carries the Staff of Equilibrium, symbolizing his quest along the “middle way.” How might one describe the middle way?
(1) From Emblata, et Aliqvot, 4th ed., Antwerp, Christopher Plantin, 1576. Translation by Roger T. Simonds in: Simonds, Peggy Muñoz, Myth, Emblem, and Music in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline: An Iconographic Reconstruction, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1992.
(2) The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
(3) See Simonds’ discussion of the “Hero as a Molting Eagle” in Chapter 6, “The Iconography of Birds in Cymbeline.” See also Hope Rutledge’s American Bald Eagle Information site at http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/eagle/eagle5.html
(4) Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw, Where the Bald Eagles Gather, New York, Clarion Books, 1984, with photographs by William Muñoz. See also: Grambo, Rebecca L., Eagles: Masters of the Sky, Stillwater, MN, Voyageur Press, 1997.
(5) Matthew 5:8. See also: Matthew 6: 22, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.”
Saturday, February 05, 2005
“Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in.” –Willis Harman
After the hero’s marriage to the goddess and atonement with the father, “the third station along the path to fulfillment,” writes Joseph Campbell, (1) “is apotheosis, where you realize that you are what you are seeking.”
In his analysis of the mythic hero pattern, Lord Raglan (2) states that:
(1) “The hero’s mother is a royal virgin;
(2) His father is a king, and
(3) Often a near relative of his mother, but
(4) The circumstances of his conception are unusual, and
(5) He is also reputed to be the son of a god.
(6) At birth an attempt is made by his father or his maternal grandfather, to kill him, but
(7) He is spirited away, and
(8) Reared by foster-parents in a far country”
All heroic stories do not have a hand-in-glove fit with all 22 of Lord Ragland’s steps in the pattern including the first eight steps listed here. But those with a close fit to the pattern’s beginning include Oedipus, Theseus, Romulus, Perseus, Jason, Apollo, and Arthur.
These heroic stories coincide with the belief that each of us is—in one sense—of royal birth and that we are reared by earthly parents in a far country and do not consciously understand our divine origin or our sacred connectedness with each other, the natural world, or the universe. In a sense, each hero or seeker who sets out on a quest or pilgrimage carries the Holy Grail within him from the start. We discover/remember who we are (and who we have always been) through our experiences on our journey.
Robert Adams, in The Sun Singer sets out to complete an unfinished task of his grandfather (discovering the location of the goddess) and help others in need (the members of the Society of the Rose). From the beginning, he fights rebelliously against resurrecting the psychic talents that brought him pain and suffering in the past. So it is, that he does no consciously know that while his dangerous mission appears to be focused on others, he is—in reality—searching for himself.
(1) Discuss how Robert’s search for himself is symbolized in the book when he forgets his name after stepping through the portal. By what means does he discover his name? What is the significance of the names Sonny Trout, Osprey, and Eagle?
(2) While Robert proactively “causes” his staff to fire lightening bolts at enemy soldiers and aid in the healing of Cinnabar, most of his psychic experiences appear to come upon him randomly and unbidden. In terms of his rediscovery of himself, discuss the significance of Robert’s finally opening himself up through the Seer’s Prayer near the end of the book.
(1) Pathways to Bliss.
(2) Raglan, Fitzroy Richard Somerset, The Hero – A Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama, Mineola, NY, Dover Publications, 2003. This book was first published in by Methuen & Company of London and subsequently in 1956 by Vintage Books of New York.