mythic perspectives

The Great Work

Consider the numerous strange rituals that have been reported from the primitive tribes and great civilizations of the past, it becomes apparent that the purpose and actual effect of these was to conduct people across those difficult thresholds of civilization that demand a change in the patterns not only of conscious but also of unconscious life.

The so-called rites of passage, which occupy such a prominent place in the life of a primitive society (ceremonials of birth, naming, puberty, marriage, burial, etc.), are distinguished by formal, and usually very severe, exercises of severance, whereby the mind is radically cut away from the attitudes, attachments, and life patterns of the stage being left behind. Then follows an interval of more or less extended retirement, during which are enacted rituals designed to introduce the life adventurer to the forms and proper feelings of his new estate, so that when, at last, the time has ripened for the return to the normal world, the initiate will be as good as reborn.

Joseph Campbell, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”

This is where we find ourselves. Today. I can’t help but feel we’re experiencing some global rite of passage, thrust upon us by the gods, which is to say, by us; the collective unconscious rising up, the great karmic debt collector pounding at the door. All the years of wars, walls, slavery, instituationalized racism, xenophobia, classism, crashing head on with technology, globalization and a climate in crisis.

And the only way out is through.

May we all face our demons, our own internalized biases, shame, blame, all of it, so that we are “radically cut away from the attitudes, attachments, and life patterns of the stage being left behind”, and then may we commune with and learn from the mentors, the leaders, our brothers and sisters out there right now paving new pathways of truth and vulnerability introducing us to “the forms and proper feelings of our new estate”.

May we all be reborn.

As Tony Kushner and Carl Jung before him said… the great work begins.

*Art by Carl Jung, from The Red Book

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