Myths are not stories that are not true; myths are stories that are too true and too large for facts alone. Matthew Fox
As we enter this new year of 2022, I am looking backward to reflect on the year we are leaving behind, as well as forward in hopes of glimpsing new possibilities for our future. 2021 was a year of continuing pandemic, with more death of loved ones, worldwide suffering, and anxiety fueled by rising social conflict and ecological devastation. I have not written for most of this year; in the darkness of my inner soulscape I have been simply waiting as the chaotic energies swirl around me and watching for the signs that point to the new arising.
We are living in a time that reveals the prophetic truth of the poet W. B Yeats: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” The forces of fragmentation that underlie the chaos and violence of our contemporary world clearly show that the old cultural and religious structures are not working, but we have not yet found the new forms that will empower humanity to enter the next phase of our evolutionary process. We no longer have a unifying myth to to provide the integrating “center” for our individual and collective lives. Traditional myths, which have provided meaning and guidance for many centuries, no longer resonate with many in our contemporary world. In such a time, the powerful archetypal energies that myths symbolically express will often erupt in perverse and destructive ways, as we currently witness in the mass proliferation of conspiracy theories. (see 2/25/21 blog)
The words of visionary artist David Paladin describe this process of mythic transformation that may provide the psychic center for our transition to a global, interdependent world:
All great truths are only myths that exist momentarily in the evolving greater consciousness. Like individuals, they die, to be reborn fresh and glorious in the minds of each new age. They may bear a resemblance to their forebears, but each brings with it new features of its own and seeks to find its place and meaning in the dancing dream that is the cosmos.
When I survey our current cultural landscape it appears to be a wasteland, devoid of myth and meaning, but on the far horizon I “see” a new myth emerging. It is still in embryonic form, but it has been conceived within the collective unconscious and is developing now in the dark womb of the World Soul beneath the surface of human consciousness. The visionary artists, poets, and mystics of our age are the ones who at this time are aware of this emerging myth and helping to give it birth through their attempts to express it.
My vision is like that of the Russian Christian mystic Daniel Andreev’s image of the “Rose of the World”: the Rose is the unifying cosmological myth for humanity that is formed from the petals which represent all the variants of this universal myth according to the wisdom traditions of each culture. The deep monomyth has a universal structure of archetypal symbols consistent with our current age, expressed in the unique form this mythic language takes within each culture. The wholeness and beauty of the Rose – the new myth of a global humanity – is formed from all the diverse expressions of this unitive myth as it manifests through the souls of each culture.
This new myth is arising in response to the deep need of the human soul today: what the World Soul needs for healing, what the individual soul needs for regaining a sense of meaning in life and an understanding of humanity’s connection to the cosmos, what we need to provide the vision and the energy to save our Mother Earth from our own destruction and to save the human race from the horrors of our technologically augmented violence.
These are some of the crucial aspects that I envision in this new myth:
- The cosmological framework, based on current and emerging scientific theories, that opens our hearts to the awe and wonder of existence and the mystery at the heart of the cosmos. The Hubble space images already provide an experiential preview of this emerging vision which the James Webb telescope now has the potential to expand exponentially.
- A vision of humanity’s role in this cosmic unfolding that provides a sense of meaning and coherence to human life, that enables us to see the infinite value of each individual life even as we transcend our own personal and collective group boundaries to see our position as a cell in the greater Body of the Cosmos. The views of evolutionary spirituality can serve a function in helping us to see this bigger picture that realizes the importance of the Great Work that has been given to humanity in this process of evolutionary unfolding.
- The return of the Sacred Feminine in union with the Sacred Masculine that provides wholeness to our mythic image of the divine source of life and overcomes the destructive power of patriarchal domination. The divine Mother that births creation awakens us to the sacredness of Earth and all her creatures, the foundation for the ecological spirituality necessary for the future of life on our planet.
- The resurgence of the wisdom traditions within the spiritualities of the world; these form the “petals of the Rose” rather than the institutional religions of today. All of these streams of wisdom are needed to help us break through the boundaries of our own egos, to see the new vision, to know the meaning of our lives individually and collectively, and to experience unity: our oneness with all others, with the entire cosmos, and with the Mystery that we call God – the source and substance of all that is.
I see the work of Teilhard de Chardin as the beginning of this cosmological myth in its Christian form: the Christ as the universal energetic Presence that created the cosmos, continually creates it anew in each moment, and guides it in its evolutionary unfolding to the mystery of its final destiny which is expressed in Christian tradition as the “Creation of a New Heaven and a New Earth.”
Teihard’s vision, and that of others like Thomas Berry, Beatrice Bruteau, Ilia Delio, Matthew Fox, and many more who are laboring today to bring forth this emerging myth, may form the structure for a new Christian vision and provide a new language of symbols that will be the means for us to experience and live the myth that speaks to the wisdom of our heart.
Other spiritual traditions will need to bring forth their own cultural variants on the emerging myth. This is the antidote to the spiritual fundamentalisms that are tearing our world apart today. The radical fundamentalists understandably want to live in a world that has meaning and supports the soul that is filled with sorrow and fear. But they are doing this by holding on tenaciously to the old myth and erecting even firmer walls around the ego – personal and tribal – in a defensive maneuver. Because these old myths can no longer be believed – or, more importantly, lived by most people in our global, scientific age – the regression to violence, based on fear, is often the response.
The vision that I see is not a peaceful, loving, cooperative movement toward the future by the human race. The chaos, violence, conflicts will continue as the collective psyche is torn apart by the tension of the opposites, until a transcendent function – the new myth – arises in human consciousness. Whether this will happen in time, before we destroy our planet and the human race – increasingly a possibility as our technology and global connectedness cast forth their shadows – is the primary question today. When I hear the news around the world, it is hard not to fall into despair. The regressive forces that have such capabilities for destruction seem to be ever stronger and the worldwide attempts to foster peace, compassion, and cooperation seem so feeble in comparison. But I have to remember that we can only see the “stitching on the underside of the cloth,” the image that the mystic Jacob Boehme used to convey the distorted, fragmentary, chaotic pattern of life in the world of time and space. The “topside of the cloth,” with its beautifully stitched, complete design has not yet been revealed to us, except to those visionaries who have been given a glimpse of this other Reality. What the rest of us must do is have faith that there is a bigger picture, a “whole cloth” that includes our chaotic, broken life and a pattern that connects. Both sides – the ugly fragments and the beautiful design – are necessary for the whole.
When I move my stance to this bigger picture I can realize that the “underside of the cloth” is the process of evolutionary unfoldment in space/time that always includes violence, destruction and death. I also reflect on earlier periods in history when it seemed that the world was falling apart and regressing to earlier barbaric times. The early Christians, living in the time of the Roman empire, could never have rationally thought that their small movement would survive, grow, and endure as it has through all of its transformations in history. The Renaissance, the great rebirth in Western culture that opened the way to our modern world, was beset by reactionaries like Girolamo Savonarola. For people living in Florence at the time, it must have seemed that the dark, primitive, violent forces within the human psyche would win out over the emerging impetus to freedom and creativity. I imagine that the only way that people in all times of chaos can persevere is through faith in that which transcends their limited perspective. So, although I am beset by doubts and even despair at times, I have to keep focused on the big picture and what I do “see” coming into view on the far horizon. By this I don’t mean that I believe that there is a divinely ordained, predestined outcome to this evolutionary unfolding. I firmly believe that we humans are co-creators with the Divine and what we do, especially how we respond at this critical turning point in time, is crucial to how the future unfolds. This is a central aspect of the emerging myth that realizes the human race has a vital role to play in the cosmos, especially when such powers of destruction are in our possession. But our actions are in reciprocal relationship with the Divine – whatever we do, the beautiful design will continue to be sewn although its pattern will differ depending on our responses. Ultimately I trust in the Cosmic Process. With this vision I can say with the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich:
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
Cynthia Avens January, 2022
David Paladin and Matthew Fox, Painting the Dream: The Shamanic Life and Art of David Chethlahe Paladin (Santa Fe, New Mexico: 2003)
Daniel Andreev, The Rose of the World (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Books, 1997)
Shiva Nataraja Dancing and Rose: Richard Zelley; Hubble Space Telescope image: Wikimedia Commons