Applied Mythology, ala Dr. Joseph Riggio and the MythoSelf Process, Is NOT About The Telling Of Old Stories …
Applied Mythology IS ABOUT How To Incorporate The Structure Of Mythic Form Into Your Life To Make It More Whole and Wellformed … i.e.: More Blissful
Heroes and Mentors
I have a couple or “Intellectual Heroes and Mentors” folks whose intellectual/academic work has spurred me on in my work. Some of my heroes and mentors I found many years ago, some are newer to me. These are folks I’ve spent a lot of time with, reading their books, writing about their ideas, incorporating and applying their ideas in my own work, using what they developed as a platform to leap from in developing my own fledgling conceptualizations, methods and processes … and finally, in some cases, coming to the point where I truly believe I have mastered the ideas they wrestled with first and made accessible to me in their life’s work.
When I talk my intellectual heroes and mentors I’m not talking about the folks who necessarily had the most actual influence in my life. The folks who had the most influence in my life would include those closest to me, family, some teachers, friends and very near the top Roye, my own mentor for nearly twenty years.
My intellectual mentors and heroes are folks like,
- Carlos Castaneda (yes … it’s true, very influential to my thinking in my late teens and early twenties … his writing opened up the entire possibility of alternative realities and magical thinking to me)
- Suzuki Roshi and Alan Watts (very early on … around 11 years old … I began to become interested in and to train in martial arts, this led me to writings about Zen, Taoism and Bushido, and by 15 I was “sitting” regularly myself … and reading Watts caused me to question everything)
- Milton Erickson (in my twenties I developed a profound fascination with hypnosis and began reading intensely on the subject … then I found Milton Erickson, and everything I’d though about hypnosis shifted for me)
- F.M. Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais and Thomas Hana (the idea of how the body was influencing the mind … and subsequently my behaviors had me … for more than a few years, from my mid-twenties through to my mid-thirties, I was diligently working to figure out where the interface was and how to operate it)
- Dudley Lynch (leading me to) Clare W. Graves (there was something in Dudley’s book “Strategy of the Dolphin” that caught my attention deeply when it came out … later I found he was pointing to a true genius of social evolutionary thinking, Dr. Graves … I’ve now spent many hundreds (or possibly thousands) of hours deeply contemplating and applying the Graves model in my work)
- Edmund Husserl, Soren Kirkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittengenstein, John Searle et al … (I tracked the movement of modern philosophy from phenomenology, through to existentialism, and then onto analytic philosophy I delved deeply into what these folks had to say about the Philosophy of Mind … and by the time I got to the analytical philosophers what they were saying about language and reality as well)
- Charles Sanders Pierce, John Dewy, William James, Richard Schusterman, et al … (I love the work of the American Pragmatists … this is a philosophy that draws deeply upon the aesthetic and it speaks to me deeply … I get the sentiment and the soul of pragmatism, in the way that it shows up in life, like no other philosophy)
- Joseph Chilton Pearce, Daniel Siegel, David Abram, Jeffrey Schwartz, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Nicholas Humphrey, et al … (there a whole host of neuroscientists, linguists, cognitive scientists, etc. who are exploring the ideas that are at the heart of my fascinations and they have all at one time or another influenced my thinking … some more deeply than others)
- Richard Bandler & John Grinder (I’ve read everything they’ve written … jointly and solely … some of their books ten or more times … and some I barely got through once … but the work of NLP still holds my attention like little else, especially in the direction it took under my tutelage with Roye)
- Joseph Campbell (I saved him for the last because he surely ranks as one of the folks I literally consider to be an intellectual hero and mentor to me … much of my thinking has been influenced by the writing and speaking of Joseph Campbell and his take on the structure and form of mythological thinking)
Believe me that’s the short list … but I want to share a range of the kind of folks I’ve been paying attention to over the years. It has been a funky, fun, interesting and enlightening journey … and I’m guessing I’m now about halfway there.
So What’s This Got To Do With You?
HECK … ONLY EVERYTHING …
I’ve laid it out before and I’ll do it again … YOU ARE YOUR STORY!
The sources that inform your story contribute to the form it takes … i.e.: WHO YOU BECOME! Of course, I’m not saying that you become the story of the sources that inform your story, you become something like a multi-hued reflection of the multiplicity of sources that you continue to absorb that inform the story you are living. Keeping it simple if you were to see a tree from the point of view of an Impressionist painter reflected on water, the seemingly infinite number of leaves are the equivalent of the sources that inform your story … and there is a main trunk that is unique and singular as well.
Now, before I keep jumping forward let me make it really clear that within the structure of where I place my attention, “YOUR STORY” is really a bunch of stories that are interwoven like a tapestry that forms what you experience as the ground of being in your life … for you this tapestry defines “what is real” and how to make sense of what you encounter in an ongoing way. I use the word STORY and not tapestry because for most people the tapestry I refer to is experienced in the form of an autobiographical narrative.
NOW HERE”S A MAJOR POINT …
Most people experience their own unique autobiographical narrative as “absolute” … meaning that at any given moment in time what you believe to have happened and is happening is actually true to fact for you. For example you believe you are reading these words and in this moment no one could dissuade you about that as being a fact. This is true even though there are a thousand other things that are true in that moment that just passed and in this one as well … that you ignored, deleted and distorted.
Let’s expand that one just a little … you think you are reading “THESE WORDS” – but YOU ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE READING WHAT YOU THINK THESE WORDS MEAN … and not the words themselves. Let me demonstrate what I mean … in an hour you’ll have a memory of reading this, but what will you remember, the words you’re now reading, or what you think these words mean? It’s that simple at one level and it’s levels all the way down …
For most people this also represents what they experience their memories like as well, i.e.: absolute narratives of what happened. You are as likely to do this about what happened less than a minute ago as you are about what happened a decade ago … and you’re as likely to be just as wrong about both. It would be foolish to trust that you’re memories are accurate to fact, they’re just not. You can find overwhelming evidence that your memory works as a flawed system, and that may in fact be in your best interest. So while you’re memory may be flawed, your memory will be how the world world was and continues to be for you.
Okay so what does this have to do with you again?
At the most basic level it would be useful to recognize that what you are creating in your interactions with others aren’t really experiences, but flawed representations of those experiences called memories. People will not remember what you say or do, they will remember the impression of what you say or do has on them … and it will be different from what you say or do in some measure, large or small.
We could go on with the practical aspects of what this has to do with you, but for now I’ll stop with that example there.
The main point you want to get from this, if you get anything at all, would be that they are all stories … and those stories collect into an Über Story that becomes the Gestalt you are living. The gestalt of your life may be best thought of as a “reality filter.”
Living Your Life Story
I’ve been making the point that you are living your Life Story. This story represents only one way of interpreting all the events that have happened and are happening, as for as long as you have this story, what will happen too.
You have no choice but to live your Life Story … BUT you do have a choice over what story you are living!
[NOTE: You may want to add into this narrative that you’re reading now that one of the most powerful ways to choice your Life Story would be to pick the stories that go into it.]
The stories you accept as being “real” are only a part of the construct of your Life Story, i.e.: your memories of your experiences as you know them to be. In addition to the things we experience, and the things we “know” there are the things we can’t explain … that we yearn to have an explanation for nonetheless, e.g.:
- Why do bad things happen to good people? …
- Why did that happen to me, and not to them? …
- Why did that happen to them, and not to me? …
- Why am I here? …
- Who am I? …
This may be the most profound function of myth,
to answer the unanswerable.
Now I am not saying that myth, or more properly in the way I am using this idea – mythic form, has literal, concrete answers. Rather than providing literal, concrete answers myth shows the way … it’s is about the path, the journey, the process … not about the content. Myth gives us what we cannot possess … as way to see ourselves. The eye cannot see itself, the finger cannot touch itself … the eye must have a reflection of itself to “see” itself, the finger must be touched to “touch” itself … in this way myth provides the reflection and the touch for us to know ourselves beyond ourselves.
Myth places the most significant and urgent information “out there” beyond the limits of how we “know” things to be … including ourselves. This information may be simply revealing, “Oh, now I see how I am like that too.” … or educational/instructive … “Now I get how I can move beyond this moment in which I have been stuck.” or it may reveal, educate and instruct us about others and the world we share, “Ah, now I get how he/she/they think the world must be.”
This information comes to us as an impression, not as a “fact” or “absolute.” Myth offers us the means to use our innate intuitions about the world to construct a reality that fits our experience. The opportunity myth provides can and will take us beyond self-imposed and socially-imposed limitations if we allow it. We are built to “guess” at “what the world ‘is’ out there” – we don’t have the equipment to “know” the world out there, we miss too much of it, and make up most of it as we go along. The philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists … and others have been hard at work for centuries proving how limited and flawed our perceptual capacities are in fact.
To use a Robert Anton Wilson phrase:
“Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves.”
(from Prometheus Rising)
So you can say, once we find the way to reset our “Thinker” we have found the way out of our own limiting beliefs … because the “Prover” will prove whatever the “Thinker” thinks!
The trick to resetting the “Thinker” has always been the same … A, B, C
- A) Give the “Thinker” new data in the form of experience and information to work with
- B) Make the experience and information that you provide the “Thinker” with emotionally compelling … i.e.: make it “feel really good” or “feel really bad“
- C) Create a recursive somatic loop in the “Thinker” that connects the experience and information to the feeling in the body where it will be stored and accessed/re-accessed later
“We act based on how we “feel” about things that prompts us to “think” things are as they are for us … i.e.: change the association to how we “feel” about things and we change what we “think about them.”
“Applied Mythology, as mythic form, gives us the mechanism to change how we feel about what we think.”
“We can update our Life Story by encountering powerful stories that are emotionally compelling and create new associations between what we “know” and how we “feel” about it … this has always been the appeal and power of mythology, literature, theater … and more and more today the stories we encounter in film.”
– Joseph Riggio, Ph.D.
This is my quest … to follow my myth wherever it leads … and for now it leads me to be an applied mythologist.
So I have an invitation for you … will you join me on your journey?
As always I look forward to seeing, reading and responding to your comments …
Joseph Riggio, Ph.D., Princeton, NJ
Architect and Designer of the MythoSelf Process & Soma-Semantics
PS – There will be an Applied Mythology 102, or 202, someday soon … promise. In that installment I’ll share some of my thoughts about the “Social Myths” that keep us stuck where we find ourselves today … and some possible stories that might help to free us in the societies we are constructing going forward … my little take on “Social Ontology”