I love Joseph Campbell, too, but I found this post by John Beckett quite timely, in that he pushes back against the implementation of a “monomyth” at a time of fairly strong pressure to lump everything into one pot. While I love the rising recognition of our planet as a primal and holy force, I also feel caution that we don’t lose subtlety, uniqueness and local culture in our search for the one, the only, the all-encompassing, authoritative global myth.
Does a “Mythos for Planetary Culture” really require that we all believe the exact same thing? Or could we love our planet, recognize Her divinity and inherent value, yet go even deeper into our local heritage, the local spirits of place, and those Elemental and energetic beings who unfurl the veils, through engaging a very much embodied Nature, rather than an abstract concept of the One True Myth that supplants all other myths? Doesn’t that sound just a tiny bit like … (gasp!) the “elite”‘s coveted One World Religion? Are we so afraid of our differences that we can only integrate them by painting over everything with a different colored but still monochromatic brush?
A few highlights from John’s article:
“In his search for universal themes, Campbell combined and conflated widely differing myths into a ‘monomyth’ – a soft polytheism of mythology that claims all myths are aspects of One Myth. One critic called this ‘a (Joseph) Campbell soup of myths that loses all local flavor.’”
“Another source of confusion is our evolutionary instinct to divide everything into good/bad, helpful/harmful, like me/Other. When we get to know people of different religions and we see they’re basically good, we move them from the ‘Other’ category to the ‘like me’ category. And if someone else is ‘like me’ then I may assume that deep down they must be seeking the same things I seek. This is not an accurate assumption.”
“We don’t have to say ‘deep down you’re just like me’ in order to get along with another person or a different religion. We don’t have to assume they’re seeking the same things in different ways. We just have to respect their inherent dignity and worth and trust they’ll do the same for us.”
As always, I enjoy John’s unpacking and rearranging of commonly accepted beliefs and structures. His process, as much as anything he concludes, offers an excellent antidote to that collectivist urge to erase all differences into a homogenous blob, instead of learning to recognize and celebrate the vastness of Nature, Imagination and the ever unfolding Creation. Here’s the full post.