The Right Kind of Trouble

From the little psyche to the big one. That takes a little explaining. The greatest gift that mythology got in the twentieth century was psychology. Psychology made the numinous energies that radiate through the old stories if not exactly approachable, then relatable. Many people made a home in the chest for the gods, denizens, blue-tailed magpies and magnificent weddings the stories contain. They stepped forward and were able to say; “all this lives in me!”. That is a wonderful move. Without it, not much is going to happen. It’s what Hillman called “felt experience”. This is a great legacy from Jung, Von-Franz, Estes and Bly.

But I think something else is starting to happen. Something that pertains to the almost zeitgeist desire for a rooted or indigenous sense of place. What if we dwelt within the psyche of the story rather than imagined it was all neatly contained within our own heads? What if the stories owned us rather than the other way around? What if myth - in the words of Sean Kane - was “the power of a place speaking?” This is a big shift.

Something I have witnessed from twenty years working with the wilderness vigil (four days in the wild, fasting), is that often towards the end of that experience there comes a moment where you feel absolutely, devastatingly, connected to the living world around you. There is no longer some hoarded up, treasury of interiority separate from the rowans and circling hawk. This is not anthropocentric in any way, it is actually a kind of elegant disintegration. Without that moment - which may always just be a glimpse - i don’t think we will get near the sense of what it could be to have an indigenous footing in the world.

One of the huge challenges of teaching is how to present such a profound grinding down of much that we have been elevated to assume into the context of a western educational framework. It doesn’t sound comforting. Well, it isn’t.