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Contrary to popular usage, myth does not mean a falsehood. Myth is a very real representation of reality. For indigenous and ancient peoples, myth is the representation of the way things really are in the world. Just as scripture in the world’s religious traditions, myth operates at the sacred level.

The most common and profound archetype in mythology is that of “the hero’s journey,” a form of the pattern of birth, death, and rebirth, or in Joseph Campbell’s words: departure, initiation, return. This pattern defines the process of transformation. Myth thus expresses a dialectic of opposites, which provoke an interaction culminating in a synthesis of the thesis and antithesis, which further combines and transcends them both. Transformation occurs by following a dialectical process which itself makes up the archetype of transformation.

We get to the sacred, mythic level of our life story by telling our universal story, the story of our lives that connects us not only to those we know directly but also to all those throughout time and across distances who have lived similar experiences or archetypes as we have. This is how and why our universal story carries the sacred and enduring truth – and power – of myth.

A 43rd way to explore your soul’s story – Sometimes in our lives we are not aware of the truth that we are living, especially when we are in the midst of experiencing struggle, conflict, or tension. Yet it is precisely this kind of challenge or “muddle” that is needed to show us the truth and the necessity of the difficulty, which is really the only thing that can lead us on to a “resolution” and the completion of the transformation process. Think of a time in your life when you were able to turn what felt like a falsehood into a truth, when something that you didn’t want or didn’t like the feel of eventually showed its value and importance to you in a way that ultimately led to the completion of the process of transformation in your life. How did a new realization, clarity, or awareness assist the quickening of this process for you by helping to bring about the unity of opposites? Please share this story here if you would like to.

Our universal story is made up of archetypal experiences, those that connect us to the source of basic human tendencies and to the timeless elements of the human experience. This is because archetypes are ultimately the Imago Dei, or God-image, within us. When we consciously experience an archetype in our lives, the archaic becomes contemporary, and, most importantly, the universal becomes personally sacred.

Myth and ritual incorporated archetypal experiences in order to bring about the transformation from one state to another that was desired to maintain and strengthen the community. So when these universal archetypal elements emerge into our lives today they carry a transformative power. They keep us in the vital, nourishing riverbed through which the water of life has flowed for centuries, and which is the soul of our existence. They bring us to life, and keep us truly alive.

An archetype integrates into a meaningful whole all the illusory splits of apparent oppositions. It is in this way that archetypes also carry a “healing” function, in unifying the differing facets of the same reality, and their presence is felt as also having a profound spiritual significance.

A 42nd way to explore your soul’s story – It is important to grasp how and why living an archetype can help bring about healing. This will add much more meaning and depth to the life story we have lived. Think of any experience where some aspect of your life was healed, reconciled, or resolved. Then think of whether that experience could possibly be unique to you, or if it is more likely shared by others. Was it the uniqueness of the experience, or was it the universality of the experience, that ultimately enabled the healing to happen? Was it the fact that only you could have experienced it, or the fact that many if not most other people could have also experienced it, that made it healing for you? What is it about either uniqueness or universality that makes it healing? How and why is this awareness important in telling your life story? Incorporate these reflections into the telling of your life story, and share them here if you would like to.

We All Live a Universal Story

In addition to the unique story we live (our story like no one else’s), and the group story we live (our story like some others), we also live a universal story (our story like all others). Our universal story is shared by all human beings, due to the deep-seated patterns and processes we all have in common. This is the form of our life story we will look at for the remaining blogs here.

The place to begin in understanding our universal story is with myth and ritual, since this is where the timeless and sacred patterns are contained that gave meaning to every aspect of the constantly changing lives of indigenous peoples worldwide who created these original wisdom stories in narrative form. Because myths contain deeply held beliefs about the nature of life and the people’s relationship to their Creator, myths around the world describe a common process of change and transformation.

This universal process, also contained within the sacred rituals of the world’s religious traditions, makes up a common, therefore sacred, pattern and consists of timeless elements, repeated over and over throughout life at key transition points, known as archetypes and motifs. These define and facilitate the process of transformation.

Archetypes are latent potentialities, or pattern-forming elements, residing in the human psyche – the actual “energy-charged,” or meaning-making content of the collective unconscious. As Jung might say, archetypes are part of our vast store of ancestral knowledge about the profound relations between God, man, and cosmos, that remain unconscious until our own real life experiences bring them forth into consciousness, making our individual experience part of the universal human experience.

When an archetype passes over into consciousness, it is felt as an illumination, or a revelation. The archetype itself is the original form of a type of experience from which all other forms of that experience follow and are copied; it is a recurring ‘mythological component,’ a type of a common situation, or a type of universal figure, what we would think of as a literary motif, that is part of our inherited humanity. Examples of such archetypal situations would be “the hero’s quest,” “the battle for deliverance from the mother,” or “the night sea journey,” while archetypal figures would include the divine child, the trickster, or the wise old man. The archetype carries a power to impress, influence, awaken, and therefore transform us.

A 41st way to explore your soul’s story –  When in your life have you experienced the archetypal energies that have always existed within you bursting forth into your consciousness? What was going on in your life at the time? How did this illumination from an archetypal level change or transform things for you? Reflect on this, and then tell this part of your universal story here for others to benefit from.

There is an essential give and take, push and pull, up and down, to life that is both simple and yet a core mystery of existence. Through this dialectic we develop character, form virtues, and gain integrity. The symmetrical nature of opposing forces helps us remember our wholeness.

This inherent opposition of life is designed to bring about growth, change, transformation, and evolution in life; and, ultimately, to shift our focus from the familiar to the mysterious, from the physical to the spiritual, and from time to eternity.

Here we have a fundamental principle of life that, in presenting us with endless pairs of opposites, creates contradictions, conflicts, and problems, or muddles, to be resolved. Each pair of opposites, as complementarities, adds up to a whole. Problems only arise when the whole is broken down into parts. In some traditions, the central problem of the human condition is precisely how to bring the two contraries into equilibrium, yet maintaining them as complementary forces. Knowing how to balance the creative and destructive energies is a guiding principle of human development.

A 40th way to explore your soul’s story – Identify a time, or an experience, when you were fully aware of a conflict of opposites going on in your life, a push and a pull between two forces that seemed to have equal power over you. What were the forces you were aware of, what kind of shift in focus or contradiction did this create for you? Did these opposing forces help you to understand any better your core values or virtues that you possess? How did you recreate a balance between these opposing forces for yourself? Tell this story of how you overcame, or resolved, the muddle these two opposing forces created for you, and post it here for others to benefit from, if you would like to.

On this National Day of Service and Remembrance, nine years already since 9/11, and one year since I began this blog to explore ways we can remember who we are deep within us, we may still wonder how far we have come in uniting the great divide between us.

A little service to others goes a long way in helping us remember who we are and how much we are all connected. Stepping into the wounds of loss, separation, and grief with acts of altruism and selflessness leads to healing and reconciliation. Service can be the first step toward peace, both within and in the world. Service is prayer made visible. As Abdu’l-Baha said, “Service to humanity is service to God.” What will you do this day to serve and to remember?

A 39th way to review your life story – In your own place of quiet, where you can reflect deeply, ask yourself these questions about service. What does service mean to me? How does service fit into my life, now and in the future? In 5, 10, or 20 years from now, what will I have done with my life that is most satisfying? What will I have contributed to the world that will be my greatest source of happiness? What strengths and capacities will I build upon, and what weakness will I overcome, to be of service in this way? What do I need to do, or change in my life, today that would enable me to carry this out? Take as much time as you need to put all your thoughts on this down in a way that sounds and feels right to you, tell this story in your own voice, and post it here for others to benefit from, if you would like to.

What was C. G. Jung really saying when he reflected in his autobiography, “In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one.” He actually compared our lives to the life of a plant that lives on its invisible, hidden rhizome. The visible part appears above ground and lasts only a single summer. His point is he “never lost a sense of something that lives and endures beneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.”

Following this intriguing analogy, what is most important in our lives, as well as longest lasting, are our inner experiences, the dreams, visions, goals, and values that carry us onward toward our becoming who we are inside us, that “splinter of the infinite deity,” as Jung puts it. Everything else withers in comparison.

Our lives are “so fleeting, so insignificant, that it is literally a miracle that anything can exist and develop at all,” Jung also says. So what do we do with what we have, before it all passes so quickly away? How do we address the mysteries of our lives, of life itself, and how do we fit into this wondrous grand mystery? Is the story we would tell of our lives that of the blossom or the rhizome? (Or, is it at least some of both?)

The story of human development, and the life story we would tell about our life as a whole, is incomplete without the recognition of the soul and what its existence signifies – not only spiritual development but eternal life as well. Mystics and poets the world over have long described how consciousness continues on, in the eternal human soul, after death. And now some scientists are saying the same thing.

A 38th way to review your life story – If our life on Earth is but a fleeting moment, if our soul is the medium for spiritual growth, and if Earth is a platform for the ascent of the soul, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your day in this soul school? What inner experiences mean the most to you? Which moments when “the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one” are the most meaningful to you? How have you learned to “isolate the eternal from the contingent,” as the mystics do, to shift your focus in this life toward eternity, toward the one, and away from the temporal, and the many? Tell this story of your deeper remembrance, and share it here for others to enjoy, as well.

Who Are You, Really?

At the heart of our quest for understanding life are three questions: “Where have I come from?” “What am I doing here?” and “Where am I going?” The mystery of our origin, purpose, and destiny is intricately tied to the nature of the soul. The world’s sacred traditions have always provided answers to these mysteries of life.

Beyond this, it now seems that we are hardwired to remember where we came from and where we are going. Remembrance is a meditation that leads to a deeper reality. It is the conscious effort of reflecting on and listening to our own eternal thoughts that connect us to the heart of the universe. As our remembrance expands, our consciousness, our view of the world and our place in it, leads us to greater action in the world. Remembrance is a stepping-stone to spiritual transformation. As a regular practice, remembrance helps us remain conscious of who we are as sacred beings.

A 37th way to review your life story – Meditate on these sacred writings: “The spirit returns to God who gave it.” “What is unseen is eternal.” “All things proceed from God and unto to Him they return.”

Keeping your focus on the sacred, try to find, as Bede Griffiths did, that “window” in your consciousness where you “can look out into eternity” and “see the world as it really is” where “all is one, united in a single vision of being.”

Be thankful for the ability to remember; to remember who you are, where you came from, where you are going, and most of all for remembering that God’s love brought you into being. Be grateful for the gift of your soul, your link to the Imperishable.

Take a moment to remember all the gifts you’ve ever received as often as you can. Take twenty minutes of focused time out of your busy day, each day, to remember all those things that are most important to you, and to let go of the unimportant, so that you remain in touch with your essence. Remember to honor both your joys and your sorrows in your life, because both are what provide your life with its greatest meaning.

Keep up this practice of remembrance regularly. Ask yourself each day these questions: Am I me? Am I in my everyday life who I am at the core of my being? Am I in the process everyday of fulfilling my own potential? And if you ever find yourself answering no to any of them, then ask yourself: What else do I need to be doing to be fully me? With this regular practice, you won’t have worry about needing to rush to answer these questions at the end of your life.