One of main purposes of spirituality is the enchantment of our lives. It helps move our experience of life out of the rut of repetition and labour, the struggle for survival and status, and imbues it with a sense of wonder. The main conduit of this enchantment are spiritual myths. So the mythologist Joseph Campbell writes that “the first and most distinctive function of myth – vitalizing all – is that of eliciting and supporting a sense of awe before the mystery of being.” Like me you can probably remember the magic of Christmas whose rituals of food and presents, story-telling and decorating were all gifted by a rich mythology of the birth of the divine child supplemented with a dose of the mythology of St. Nich!
Without the myth of a love story our partnerships can easily descend into a series of relationship tasks. Without myth, our spirituality can descend into a series of burdens – things to believe, obligations to fulfill, things not to do, experiences we ought to have, growth we must attain, people we must change. In this age of demythologisation we are in danger of losing the magic of faith which we can see in our children but find hard to re-capture in adulthood. Trying to turn our myth into history or science as fundamentalism does or trying to abandon it in an attempt to get modern doesn’t seem to be the answer either. Rather we have to let myth be myth and enter our collective stories again.
This doesn’t mean going back to the days when myths formed the basis of tightly held world views and belief systems which were in competition with each other. I think it is more about rediscovering myth as an initiator of our souls and our personal quests. As one step along this path each month some of us will be gathering together in a group called, “Myth Archetype and Me”. We will take two myths – from West and East – and talk about how they are lived in our own lives. If you live in Melbourne you may want to join us, details are at http://www.meetup.com/Myth-Archetype-and-Me/. If you are outside of Melbourne why not think about starting a similar group near you – you can find details of the group’s philosophy here.
For further reading you may be interested in Morris Berman The re-echantment of the world or Thomas Moore The Reenchantment of everyday life. The first has a theoretical bent, the second is a more practical approach.