There are a number of different ways of understanding and working with myth. I offer my views as a general indication of how myth will be approached in the groups and as a discussion starter.
- Myths are sacred stories. Although there is often an overlap between myth, legend and fairy tale, generally the word “myth” is nowadays used for stories which have a spiritual dimension.
- Myths are products of the “collective unconscious”. The collective unconscious is a psychological system we all share in. We do not come into the world with a blank mind but we inherit a collective unconscious made up of instincts, collective experiences, archetypes and archetypal processes and these constitute the elements out of which the myth is constructed. (For more on the collective unconscious, see the Wikipedia article.)
- Myths are not primarily historical but may contain historical figures or events. The history in myth has been reworked by the unconscious and therefore may only be partially helpful to the historian. They are generated by collective story telling and/or preserved by a culture which means that common significant human experiences are passed on. Myths often point to the evolution of human thought as these landmarks are significant. Myth therefore often acts as an initiator of an individuals psychological journey as it mirrors that of the culture. Myths are to some degree culturally specific which is why it is important to deal with the myths which underlie one’s own culture.
- They have an archetypal core. Myth is one of the main ways that people come to terms with the basic structures of life, such as mating, surviving and creating which are fundamental to being human.
- They are collective channels to the “Holy”. They constitute one of the ways in which the divine can be experienced in the world but because they are mediated through the collective unconscious, whose language is symbol, they cannot necessarily be taken at face value but must be explored like other products of the unconscious.