The Myth of Modern Mythlessness

I don’t usually have posts that do nothing but link elsewhere, but I couldn’t resist pointing you over to Ali’s latest, The Group of Twenty and the Mythology of the Market. Ali’s thesis is that myths are not just stories that our ancestors believed back when the human race was young and full of childlike innocence, but are alive and well today.  We don’t recognize them as myths because we think they’re true, and everyone knows that myths are false. Right?…

But if you step back and take a serious look, you can see that there are certain pervasive modern beliefs that have the same structure, function, and emotional punch that the myths of our ancestors did. They provide a meaningful worldview, giving our society a place in the universe, and holding up examples of heroes and villains to guide individuals toward ethical action.  They even have “gods” and “priests” and “prophets” and “blood sacrifices”, though they’re not called that any longer…

Examples?

  • America the Free.  This one comes complete with Creation Myth (the Revolution, with Washington taking the place of Zeus as he battles the insane Titan-like George III), prophets (Paine, Jefferson, Lincoln), high priests (presidents and other military commanders, pundits and politicians), idols (The Statue of Liberty, the Flag) and even human sacrifice (young people sent off to “die for freedom”).
  • Science the Savior.  Ironically enough, in this Creation Myth, Science the Savior conquers Myth itself to give order to the world and society, just like Zeus vs. the Titans, Odin vs. the Jotuns, and George Washington vs. George III.  Prophets include Alhazen, Bacon, Descartes, and Mill; modern priests include Dawkins and P. Z. Myers.  The Cult of Science does not generally demand human sacrifice, but it does demand animal sacrifice — in laboratories, by the millions.
  • Humanity Rules the Earth.  Read Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit.  No, really — read it.
  • The Omniscient, Omnipotent Market.  But this one is the subject of Ali’s excellent post.  So get on over there and read it already!

ire8

Become Death

A few weeks ago I had a meditation unlike any other I’d had before.

sellingsalvationiiIn the visualization, I was walking out along the high ridge that looks out over the sea. It was very early in the morning — the sun had not yet come up, but the sky was ruddy and growing lighter every moment. Suddenly, at the edge of the ridge I saw a strange black figure, wearing a robe and hood, and carrying… a scythe.

[Continue Reading...]

The Wheel’s Hub: the Axis Mundi in Tolkien’s Middle Earth

Note:  this post is intended to be part of the “Journeying to Otherworlds” synchroblog hosted by Mahud here.  Other participants include:

  1. Faith and the Hero’s Journey (Hawk’s Cry: The voice of a witch)
  2. Journeying to Otherworlds: Access Denied (Between Old and New Moons)
  3. Lions at the Door (Quaker Pagan Reflections)
  4. More Than These Words (Aquila ka Hecate)
  5. Journeying to Otherworlds (The Dance of the Elements)
  6. Mythology Synchroblog 4: Children’s Story for Mabo (Pagan Dad)
  7. Underground Ruminations (Gorgon Resurfaces)
  8. Synchroblog: Journeys to the Otherworld (Bubo’s Blog)
  9. Otherworlds Synchroblog: Olympus (Paleothea: the Ancient Goddess)
  10. Symbolic Saiho-ji and Otherworld Journeying (Symbolic Meanings)
  11. Becoming pagan in America – an otherworld journey (Executive Pagan)

The World with No Axle

ire7The Axis Mundi (Latin, literally “world’s axle”) is the mythological center of the world.  Not all mythological systems have such an Axis, but the vast majority do.  The list includes Mt. Meru and the Bodhi Tree in Buddhism, Mt. Olympus and Delphi for the Greeks, Yggdrasil for the Norse, Mt. Fuji for the Japanese and Mt. Kun-Lun for the Taoists, the Black Hills for the Lakotah, Tara for the Irish, the North Star for the Finns, and Mt. Zion and the Garden of Eden for the Abrahamists.  The Axis Mundi is not just the physical center of the universe, nor yet only a spiritual center, but contains within it a reflection of everything surrounding it; it is a microcosm of all creation.  Thus it is a symbol of the universe, as well as its center, and a journey to the Center is really a journey to the All.

Among the mythological systems with no clear Axis Mundi is Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.  Tolkien has no central mountain, no great World Tree, no Middle Kingdom; and on the face of it this is odd, because the traditions he drew upon — primarily Norse, Celtic, and Finnish — certainly had it.  But I don’t think the omission was accidental.

In this article I’m going to look at why Tolkien had no Axis Mundi, and speak briefly to the role of the Axis Mundi in the life of an individual — in particular, the significance of your own spiritual center, and what it means to have one, and to lose it.

[Continue Reading...]