Orphan Quest: Finding One’s Myth

As we delve into the “Once Upon a Time” series about myths, I’ve thought a lot about the meaning of myths, how they function, how they give a person a point of reference, a perspective. In our first drawing class Sunday night, our instructor showed us just how essential right perspective is. He set a still life before us–pitcher, jar, dish, paint brushes–and gave us 20 minutes to draw it. We eleven students produced drawings of varying degrees of proportion to what sat before us. Afterward, the instructor drew the still life that he saw. His perspective was correct and beautiful because it was proportional to what was there. His trained hand had the ability to reproduce the image on paper, and his artist self drew the still life in his own style. We saw art created, and we saw myth happening, too, because our instructor showed us something of his culture of self.

When Jung and Freud talked about myth, although they had different approaches to the inner life of the human being, they referred not only to the stories of specific cultures, but also to myth as a fundamental aspect of human consciousness. The traditional anthropological view of myth is as a collection of stories, often supernatural or paradoxical in nature, that incorporate the beliefs of a given culture. Myths provide a container for the supernatural and the paradoxical or conflicting elements that the modern mind dissociates and denies.

Much of my life’s work has surrounded orphans, both actual and archetypal. I read some adoption blogs and do a lot of thinking and living surrounding adoption. Everywhere I see orphans. When I hear their cries or see their twisted, halting gaits, I know they are wounded and I want to help. I also know that on some levels I cannot help.  I know that Jung was correct when he wrote, “I am an orphan, alone,” because orphanhood is at the heart and core of every human being. Still, I am sympathetic to actual orphans, children who have been separated from not only their biological parents, but their histories, nationalities, cultures, and myths as well. I’m sympathetic to their plight as adults who are often barred from knowing the truth about their own histories. Anyone who has lost his or her history for any reason has suffered a substantial loss. The task of recovery is immense, and not for the faint of heart.

This afternoon I watched Matter of Heart, a film from the Jung Film Project (1975-1981) with interviews of many of Jung’s colleagues, two of his grandsons, and of Jung himself. One particular excerpt from an interview with Jung had me riveted, and I wanted to reproduce it here because it speaks to the heart of what I’ve been writing about:

A man is not complete when he lives in a world of statistical truth; he must live in a world of his biological truth. Man has always lived in the myth, and yet we think we are able to be born today and to live in no myth, without history. That is a disease! It is absolutely abnormal, because man is not born every day. He is once born in a specific historical setting with his specific historical qualities, and therefore he is only complete when he has a relation to these things. It is just as if he were born without eyes and ears when you are growing up with no connection to the past. From the [perspective] of natural science, you need no connection to the past; you can wipe it out–and that is a mutation of the human being (C. G. Jung).

What Jung said is true on several different levels. It is true of a culture that denies its actual history and replaces it with revisionist versions, and it is true in personal situations in which people are cut off from their own myths. Every relationship has its culture, every family, every work place, every community. When parents deny history to their offspring, the myth begins to die and the culture is not transmitted. On a larger and more crippling scale, when we worship science and declare that God is dead, we participate in a sort of spiritual genocide in which we act as though we actually can be born every day, as if we created ourselves. We can’t seem to look past one generation–that of our parents–into the distant past and see that we have carried a treasure of inestimable value to this present time, the one that was handed down from generation to generation and into our hands. Into our hands so that we could turn away from the magic our ancestors sat around the fire and talked about, the courage that kept them alive so that we could live, so that we could blog and blab and talk about. . . what?

What, indeed. There are blogs, and then there are blogs. There are those where honest people tell their stories. They are telling their stories and connecting themselves with their own myths, their family myths, looking for clan connections along fiber optic cables. There are those that are neurotically attached to not seeing, to remaining blind, to projecting their stuff out there so that they never have to own it, never have to be responsible, never have to have a connection between their inner cause and an effect. Those who are perpetual victims, who insist there is no light for them because of what someone else did.

I don’t believe in perpetual victims. I believe that God is one who seeks and saves that which is lost, regardless of what has actually happened to a person. God is after you, you His one and only. While it is wrong to have your history cut away, wrong that someone took it and hid it, wrong that someone failed to transmit it, wrong that for a million reasons you’ve lost your way; still, there’s a way home to your true self and you can find that way. You can find it through your dreams and your spiritual life, and the act of cutting a person off statistically does not negate his inner cosmology. Truth runs in the cells and in the spirit: there’s always a way home, even if we don’t know that we know the way.

This is my intention in writing about the myth of Venus first, because Venus is a type of Eve, who was the first created woman. She is the mother of all who have been driven from the garden; and she knows the way home.

Finding Their Way Home

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