The mariner was watching one of Joseph Campbell’s lectures on DVD last evening; it was the one about uniting with the myth beyond the physical world. He used a simple analogy that prepares one’s mind to grasp the concept:
You are in a school room at night. There are a number of light bulbs on at the ceiling. The room is bright with light. Campbell asks, “Are you a light bulb or are you the light? A light bulb is a physical thing. If one burns out, you simply replace it. What is more important is the light. Without light, there is no use for bulbs.” This analogy was his way of saying that we bulbs must be more than ourselves; we must reach beyond incandescence and become the purpose that lies beyond the physical body – the essence of why we exist.
Opening a post with this deep analogy may stop the reader from reading further. Mariner offers apologies. Every culture from the dawn of human awareness to every global, regional and tribal culture today has sought and continues to seek a transcendent relationship with a source of meaning beyond the physical world. Campbell suggests the western world has lost its myth – that our bulb glows but there is no light. This loss is the source of our vague sense of consternation and is the source of our disconnection from who we are supposed to be – not only as individuals but as part of our human society and as a part of a greater universe. We have a vague feeling of being disconnected. One may come to the point that they stop to think, “How do I know that I have fulfilled my role, my responsibility, my destiny?”
In religious context, becoming the light is the same as metamorphosis. One transcends the physical world and perceives the universality of existence. The transcendent event at the end of Jesus’ life is a supreme example of transformation – freeing consciousness from the constraints of the body. The mythology of most religions suggests this event occurs upon death although it can be represented by extreme examples of heroism and self sacrifice.
The conundrum for western civilization is to define an integrated combination of personal role and morality, societal obligation and ethic, and a value for universal existence.
Joseph Campbell said that myth and science must grow together, that both are an awareness of the mythic universe. In the western world today, what kind of bulb are we? Where is our light?
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