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Monday, November 16, 2009

Sophia’s Devices -III: Myths, Legends, Fairy Tales, Parables, and Fables – CREDO XCIII

Many of us may have grown up dismissing all of the above as fanciful nonsense from the past – just not true! Jung however points out that myths are “true of the psyche.” Marie-Louise von Franz, whom I met in Davos, wrote extensively on the psychological import of fairy tales. Jesus and all other avatars taught with parables, and good old Aesop did it with fables. It seems that hiding psychological wisdom in these devices endures because everybody enjoys a good story, so they last, but “having ears we do not hear” until we learn to think symbolically. That is the key!

A Hindu example is “Two birds sit in a tree. One of them eats the fruit and the other one watches.” Think about that from the psychological point of view or from the philosophical point of view, etc. It contains, for me, the whole essence of Herman Hesse’s novel Narcissus and Goldmund! Two schoolmate boys make a deal: one goes out into the world and the other enters a monastery. They agree to meet again when they are old and compare notes. . . What does the saying suggest to you? Are you an extravert or an introvert? As for myself, I have decided I’m an ‘ambivert’(!), extraverted with people, deeply introverted when alone.

The hidden wisdom in all of the devices above is revealed when we think symbolically because this demonstrates the different levels of understanding. The story of the lion that is suffering from a thorn in his paw and is rescued by a kind child was always one of my favorites. One version has him meeting the same lion in the Roman Coliseum. The man expects to be martyred but the lion recognizes him and comes over to lick him fondly. I think George Bernard Shaw wrote a play about that.

On a more controversial level is the whole story of the Exodus in the Old Testament. Some historians today maintain that this story of the Hebrews fleeing Egypt is an allegory, on the grounds that there is absolutely not a shred of historical proof of it given by Egyptian records, which are extensive for the period. Stay tuned. My own take is that this story is set during the Age of Aries the Ram, when the concept of the ego (Aries – I am!) and its opposite Libra (law) emerged. It was the great Age for Judaism. Remember Abraham substituted a ram for Isaac’s sacrifice, and altars with rams’ horns were built, and even today the shofar that is blown is made of a ram’s horn! Moses, stand-in for the ego, led the people to the Promised Land but could not enter it, a psychological truth. Up until the last eight centuries of the Age of Aries, 800 BC, only rulers or eponymous figures were given names, and the concept of universal laws rather than local ones flowered then in the Code of Hammurabi, the Roman Twelve Tablets of Law, the Ten Commandments, and the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path. Also, at the end of that Age, the huge number of named individuals indicated the final triumph of an anthropocentric era, and actual men and women entered history for good in countless fields of endeavor. Jason and the Golden Fleece (ram!) seems another reference to Aries the Ram, and Greek coins of the time have Athena with ram’s horns on them. (For lots more, read my book The Heavens Declare: On the Evolution of Consciousness through the Astrological Ages.) We owe the actual discovery of the Precession of the Equinoxes, that Platonic Year of 26,000+ years, to the astronomer Hipparchus of Alexandria, an incredible feat!

Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper, and many of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, contain much symbolic wisdom, and perhaps I might include my own efforts in my “children’s” The Beejum Book, which has also been studied by several groups of grownups for several weeks, and the chapter “Figg Newton’s Tale” has been taught at two universities, one in a class of cognitive psychology!

I find it sad that the Fundamentalists in many religions take every word literally in their sacred scriptures. This concretizing is a form of idolatry. It keeps the story at the level of kindergarten and by the time the child is in college, he or she is apt to chuck the whole idea as nonsense. And yet if you read my CREDO LX, “The Global Return of the Prodigal Son,” you can see that parable even has political applications.

I cannot stress Jung’s emphasis on thinking symbolically enough! He wrote extensively on the subject and maintained that leading the symbolic life was the key to individuation because it united any external events and objects with their inner meaning. In the end, after all, when we die, all we can take with us is the intangible import of it all. As I will be 87 tomorrow, I can honestly say this with some conviction!

I feel that the purpose of my own life has been to prove that the Sacred is also to be found in the commonplace and that is the easiest place for us to start finding it. Love can be found and expressed in kindness, as well as passion. If you think about it, kindness has no secret agenda. It’s such a simple thing, and I learned this from a fairy tale and as an old lady from a six-year-old little boy, who got off the school bus with a bunch of wild flowers for his mother meeting him. When he saw me, he rushed to the edge of the road and picked some buttercups so I, too, would be happy. I am still blessed, not by the actual buttercups, but by the memory of his kindness. My life has been punctuated with such examples, as well as hideous examples of the opposite.

As a former teacher of children, I cannot resist giving the reader an assignment! What story, parable, or fable was meaningful to you as a child and has guided you unconsciously ever since? If you can remember it, you have been touched by Sophia whose disguise is often the Fairy Godmother, that archetypal aspect of feminine wisdom that mediates between the visible and invisible worlds, always with our spiritual benefit in mind.

This is the first of Sophia’s levels and leads us to understanding that the “Vast Certainty” of Spirit operates on ascending stages of discovery and is constantly challenged by the destructive aspects of dia-bolos, hateful ignorance, the antonym of symbolos. The thing to remember is that there has to be first a yes! for a no to deny it!

The most serious level of Sophia’s devices has to be legends. The difference between a myth and a legend is that myths tend to involve supranormal beings and deities, whereas legends involve human beings. It seems every unique culture has one and they are of heavy duty import. The Hindu Mahabharata, The Teutonic Walkyrie Cycle, the Norse Sagas, the Irish Leobhar Gabala Eirann, and the Christian Legend of the Holy Grail, to name only a few. Each, in its way, is filled with esoteric levels of interpretation and reveals a different facet of humanity.



Joann Wheeler said...

Happy birthday! Thank you for doing so well what you set out to do, showing the sacred in the commonplace! And many thanks for the word "ambivert" -- it's one I have been looking for.

Cindy Black said...

Thank you so much for all you have shared- in this post and all the others. I am making way through them, treasuring it all!

Happy Birthday and many more to you.

Working on thinking symbolically about my favorite childhood book- Where the Wild Things wonder I'm still trying to figure out what I'll be when I grow up!

birgit said...

Happy Birthday to you!
doing my homework, am revisiting Pippi Longstocking!
So wonderful to discover your blog,
and your books are on order. I am studying
experiential education, and dreaming up an
experiential astrological practice. I just
found you again through Mtn.
Astrologer, but remember Liz Greene
referring to you often - so good to
finally discover your work!

Dunyazade said...

You're 87 and you're still writing.

I wanna be like that as well :p