~ intriguing excerpt?
My observation has been that monotheistic and heavily orthodox belief systems exert a very powerful stabilizing and organizing effect upon the psyche. There is a polarization within the psyche between the central God-authority archetype and all the other parts. The monotheistic pattern seems more likely to produce powerful ethical and legalistic systems, intense confrontations between conscious and unconscious, and a stronger ego.
The polytheistic orthodoxies on the other hand, seem to allow the psyche more of its own innate polymorphous perversity. Sharp distinctions between good and evil are much harder to make. And though the deities of the polytheistic pantheon are prone to squabble, there are never enmities of the scope of that conlict between the Lord of Light and the Prince of Darkness. The pre-Christian Romans never attacked the indigenous mythologies of the people they conquered the way they did after Christianization. Polytheism seems much more open, both in culture and in psyche, to fostering a live and let-live atmosphere. Perhaps this is one reason why in our times of the reopening and unfolding of human capacity for pleasure, we may let a few of those myths - the banished gods and most especially goddesses - back in the door. After all, what's wrong with a "graven image" as long as you don't mistake the symbol for what it hints at, the finger for what it points to? Religious persecution, as well as religious evangelism, is the disease of the literal-minded.
Most of us have been trained by our literal Judeo-Christian heritage to think of our myths as either literally true or not true at all. The paranoid schizophrenic then, who projects his inner mythic drama on the outside world, is conforming to our cultural pattern. He has no training in turning the attention within to the living landscape and there allowing his energies to enact their symbolic play, the meaning of which is psychological, not literal. Hence, too, the plight of our callow shamans, who having ingested a few milligrams of freeze-dried mythology and feeling that they can fly, walk out of windows.
But can we really, as do the press and anguished parents, blame this tragedy on the drug? Are these people not equally the victims of a culture which has never been able to distinguish the diference between the mythic and the real? Experiencing and perceiving mythically for the first time, these neophyte shamans have never had a chance to learn how to deal intelligently or creatively with the mythopoetic consciousness. Like Dorothy and Levy-Bruhl's primitives, they have been living in "participation mystique," never learning to differentiate between the objectively real and the "glosses" that arise from the mythic and personal levels within. Surely this is another sign of the incredible deficiencies in our approach to education. Would even a very small child among the Senoi make a similar mistake?
~ a few thoughts of mine (the usual babble)
This particular excerpt proved rather poignant today, as I had just been reading the chapter and entered into an impromptu discussion with a fellow in the coffee shop that ultimately lead into a similar area of thought, in that, our contemporary society in it's current state of existential angst and crisis of identity, would do well to summon the psychonauts! We have become so externalised in our quest for material domination and material wealth, that I fear an important factor has been pushed to one side and that is the psychological landscape with its glorious theatrics and insights. This inner world of our being is crucial; helping us understand those things that blight us as an individual and by extension, as a collective. Yet we pay little attention to this fundamental state of being, instead, intoxicating and sedating our minds with distraction after distraction.
Whilst it is true that the predominant monotheistic church served to institutionally shackle mankind to dogma, it is also apparent that the erosion of this foundational structure has made society sway too and fro in a rudderless state; replacing holy idols with vacuous celebrities and corrupt politicians whose dubious motives are plainly discerned.
I am not suggesting that we abandon all reason and flock to the local church, or begin consuming heroic quantities of hallucinogens - far from it, as the excerpt suggests - society, generally speaking, has so little introspective sensitivity and insight, that the demons lurking in the abyss would no doubt consume and drive us to the brink of madness if we were to do so (or make us jump off tall buildings). Such is the infantile state of the average person. We are now psychonauts in nappies!
Let's face it, most drug users for instance, are simply getting stoned, and would do well to stay away from these substances if the sole purpose is merely to forget oneself, as these experiences are incredibly powerful and can be instructive if used wisely, otherwise, and is often the case, there is a price to pay - in terms of the eventual degradation of one's life. I find it depressing to see habitual users decaying, but they were incorrectly primed for the experience.
Likewise, people who gravitate towards religious institutions - do they do so after investigating a variety of alternatives, or is the lure a tick-list of black and white "does and don'ts" and the attendant appeal to external authority, potentially inducing a state of arrested development and childlike dependency through educational and emotional neglect?
The transcending and broadening of the nebulous state begins with that which ought to be a common sense and customary action; the initiatory step being quietly and soberly turning the attention inwards, for this is the gateway to the mysteries and through here we develop the wise man in our hearts.
After we see the substance of our being as clearly as we are able, then we can dance with others on life's stage and move towards greater external harmony. We can project the mystery of self outwards and engage in the yin and yang interchange of life's great theatrical presentation. But we have to know ourselves first, this is essential and the heroes quest - for we have been given the sword of enquiry, and the dragon lurks on the threshold of our own consciousness. Adventure awaits!
And so on and so forth...