Myth helps to put your mind in touch with the experience of being alive– Joseph Campbell
Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell are continuing their conversation. During the course of this exchange, Joseph makes the remark quoted above. He had been stating at another place of having a poetic understanding of old texts, those which we call sacred. For reasons we may not be entirely familiar with today, those texts are considered sacred for a reason. He has made the distinction of considering those texts above any questioning, as in the Judeo-Christian or Islamic traditions and thus taking a literal understanding of them. He posits taking a poetic understanding instead, and thus benefiting from the beautiful experience one then gets, first in the mind and then, in one’s life as a consequence.
He follows his remark, quoted above with an example:
It tells you what the experience is. Marriage, for example. What is marriage? The myth tells you what it is. It’s the reunion of the separated duad. Originally you were one… But marriage is recognition of a spiritual identity.Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth
I admire how astute, how quick, and how grounded Joseph is in this conversation. While he is conversing and recommending the “power of myth”, he has swiftly joined it to an existing reality – the great reality of human existence – marriage. He has not only done so, he has also given briefly and very powerfully, an idea that we understand spiritually in terms of a soulmate. The very word and its associated idea needs consideration, even if one does it through science and not through religion. The difference would be that science would do it through doubt and questions; religion would do it from a position of authority, and inspiration. Both, science and religion, though, can do it from a standpoint of wonder. And somewhere, each person would find a myth about marriage that would specifically and comprehensively satisfy the experience of their life and of their mind.
Marriage and spirituality
What Joseph Campell has alluded to regarding marriage is definitely in connection with the spirit. And wouldn’t one think, for a myth to have a deeply satisfying character, it must address the human spiritual need? Where science fails today, as we can see, is in taking a purely materialist position. In so doing, as many others including Richard Dawkins and Deepak Chopra have debated, modern science is overlooking (if not missing) the element of consciousness. What is consciousness, where has it come from, and what is its nature? These questions are answered spiritually, and their poetic answers arrive from myth.
So, it is quite readily to be seen that a human being in order to find satisfaction needs to address the significant matters at the spiritual level. The foundation of an elevated human is deep. And the connection of elevated humans – a man and a woman – in marriage is through a unifying myth. The myth is, perhaps, the unifying medium, the language of communication of such a uniting of souls. With an eduring myth, there is the enduring marriage.
Marriage – the union of souls – male and female
Going back to the idea of soulmates, and then, one would by necessity go back to the idea of the Creator of souls, one finds in marriage the most basic of human relationships. Is it not true, that the foundation of a society is the union of individuals? Yes, the union of a male and female is the basic building foundation from which children are born, protected, provided for, and then, they are informed to further grow a society of humans. The permanence of a marriage, is therefore, a very basic need for the society to endure. If marriage crumbles, so does the society. This happens despite the existence of exemplary individual, human beings.
The soul – that invisible inner person, the deeper identity, the spiritual manifestation – is a very important realization. It connects at the level of consciousness, and consciousness is empowered by the Supreme Consciousness from whom all life and the material world have originated. There is definitely a connection. When this connection is realized by a man and a woman on this earth, it is then the joining of those, who according to Joseph Campbell, were separated and in search. Specifically, he suggests, they were in search of each other for a reunion.
The spiritual union
In this age, there is a great emphasis on the physical and that which appears to the eyes and perceived by the physical sense organs. We cannot deny the value of those things. It is part of the human makeup to enjoy, to appreciate, and to desire those things. However, once physical satisfaction is had – and it is unfailingly temporary – there remains that, which lasts. It is the spiritual that lasts. One can only hope, it is found during this physical existence in bodily form. The union of souls is experienced in the pleasure of the bodies they inhabit. When there is love, loyalty, affection, and a deep bonding, then the union is a pleasure that is more fulfilling and definitely more lasting than the physical.
The idea of beauty cannot be separated from the idea of such union. The wish for spiritual and physical beauty is very truly bound with the human experience. We admire beauty. We seek it. We desire it. And if we do, then we might also deserve it.
Again, as in the case of the union of souls, we are also inclined to wish for the beauty we admire, seek, and desire to last if we do find it. This has been the theme running through myth – that there was a time when beauty did abide, and it would last. And since the reality on earth shows otherwise, we are not wrong to believe, there exists another realm where such is true. Would it come true on the earth? No, it goes against the laws of nature -entropy – as discovered by the study of existing situation by the sciences.
Lasting relationships, lasting beauty
We can still see beauty – the kind that gives us happiness – when we see meaningful relationships last. True, it stands on the foundation of great individual souls, but prospers when such souls meet; seeking as they are, each-other from having been parted. That is what J. Campbell suggested in his mention of a myth.
Didn’t someone say: “What you are seeking is seeking you”? I think, it is very much true for individuals. I think, this could also be true for pairs of souls as they find each other in marriage. And if there are exceptions, those who are unified to many in spiritual union, and to the Great Creator in union with the Highest Soul, it must then be a relationship more beautiful and everlasting… a marriage that it eternal. This is the greatest of all stories, to be experienced to be realized for its truth!