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Ecopsychology asks us to inquire into the realm of the unknown; as the Hero steps through into a world of uncertainty, danger, and risk. It asks of us to become whole by recognizing what we've lost, finding it, and returning. The Hero awaits. #radicalecopsychology #mythology #psyche #nature #jameshillman #carljung #freud #herosjourney #andyfisher #davidabram
My body was feeling uncomfortably tight after sitting on an uncomfortable couch inside an uncomfortable stagnant heat trapped in my house. I stepped outside to enjoy a cigarette and the cool night breeze.
An added bonus were the clear starry skies and my friendly black house cat who sat perched on the ledge of the stone steps leading up to the house. I sat beside her, lit the embers of tobacco and sucked in the smooth soothing smoke.
I looked down at that black cat who looked out down the street at all of the world that she could see. I followed her gaze and peered into her small world she roams at night and day, wondering at the simplicity of her thought, before arching my neck back to stare upon the stars.
Those stars. Those stars I know to be millions of light years away. Some billions. Those stars I know to be massive incandescent gases, some wobbling by effect of much smaller planets orbiting them. I stared up at those stars and realized I could look at them from so far away, but did not have to live in a world where I wondered what they were.
I could imagine with great accuracy what each of those stars actually looked like, because my species, human kind, dared to look beyond our own small world. We dared to look beyond the perseverance of our domain.
We dared to know more than was necessary just to survive.
But at what cost?
Every culture has looked up at the stars. Every person has looked up at the sun and wondered how its light shines upon our form and we are made in its image. Every parent has observed their children grow into their own, separate from them, internalized into the understanding of eternity at last.
Every culture has formed elaborate stories around their findings of the world; of the universe, of their own understanding for our existence – how we came to be, and where are we going.
The society is the father, bringing support and stability to the people. Structure, the backbone to the mechanisms of life. And the mother, she nurtures that life with constant love. And so we observe the grandest phenomenons of our universe take part in all aspects of life. Certain universal truths discovered independently and in different ways from culture to culture.
These truths become encoded into our stories, recordings of our existence; and thus our continued existence is testimony to our pursuit of immortality…. not as individuals, but as a species, as a creature of the earth, and since we cannot survive without the continued existence of our fellow creatures, then it no longer is just a pursuit of one single species.
We are merely the ambassadors of the collective life of this planet. We have been selected (naturally mind you) to be “awakened” to our own self-realization of life, through the very complex and rare evolutionary and physical leap of certain random yet precise DNA mutations to persuade the advantage for a correct patterning of coding that allows our body’s to do what they do today:
observe beyond our present world and wander within the realms of past and future with ease and fluency.
And each culture that has come and gone and united and ripped apart, left behind memories of their greatest humanitarian accomplishments and saddest tragedies, searching for a sign of why we are the way we are.
Why we have been “chosen”.
And every collective identity of culture has struggled with this special feeling, this strange power. And every culture has constructed laws and morals and taboos to help contain this struggle as we, from one generation to the next, one era to the next, unravel the deep mysterious answer to our question: that in someway, this answer, this source for our existence, will somehow reveal to us our purpose and reason to continue on this path, an answer to why we should persevere through the pain and suffering all around us. That it is happening for a reason, that it is only a phase in our efforts to detangle from the confusion we were born into.
Humanity was born, and we were left on our own to find out why.
And now. Now, all these stories, these social codes upheld in every culture, these ways of living based on the necessity for survival, but also based on the pursuit for immortality – to transcend the primal realm of survival, to find a way out, into the bliss of eternity. That we will cheat death, not as an individual, not as a species, but as a representative of Earth.
A hero is born. The Gods await.
My cigarette ends in one last spindle of smoke rising to the heavens and swept away in the strengthening winds and I travel back down from the stars and see my cat still staring down the long road, caught and suspended in the present moment.
“we’re in this together” I say aloud to her as I reach to pet her warm, bony back.
she sinks into my touch and begins to purr as if to say, “Well then don’t fuck it up.”
It seems that nearly every six months I go through some kind of transition in life, be it moving to a new place, the end of one job, the start of another… My life is always in constant flux. That’s my story. A kind of Hero’s Journey where the Hero finds himself detached from the normal social judgments and instead is leaping and bounding within the morals of his own art. For me, that art is seeking the source of all things. And there are two fundamental locations for this source: Our personal dreams, and our Society’s Mythologies. Have a read:
“Do you ever notice how our stories of both ancient and modern take on a fantastical quality? The fantastical quality, or, “themes” of our stories, originate from a source many many eons ago. And these fantastical themes or qualities of stories told by storytellers are actually inspired by our dreams. And our dreams, some might argue, are inspired by the internal psyche or the internal struggle.
Mythologies or stories are really just a projection of what is going on internally; inside of the human. They represent the psychological realm, the non-physical home of life. And so the physical world then just becomes a playing field, a playground for us to act out this internal struggle.
And so mythologies are told to us in this physical world, they are universal to each individual struggle, which are the dreams. So stories or mythologies then become some kind of guidebook to whats happening internally and it is our very dreams, our internal world, that somehow feeds the mythologies of our external world. There’s this reciprocity going on between our dreams feeding our mythologies and our mythologies guiding our dreams. Which means that your dreams are the accumulation of mythologies of the past. And that means that humanity, and life as we know it, is just a huge drama playing itself out since the beginning of time. And although your mortal body will die as the physical being we know it, your story, your inner-psyche, will live on.
Your inner psyche will live on as the food for the mythologies that will guide the next era. Just as your dreams and mythologies of today were fed by the eras that came before us. So although you in this physical state are an individual, your inner psyche is just a story that has been re-telling itself, continuously.
That is why cultures all around the world use storytelling as a means for healing, because it brings significance to an inwards suffering. You hear a story and you say, ‘huh, that sounds like what i’m going through,’ and your psyche identifies with the story and then it brings meaning to your suffering, and then the story that your psyche has identified with becomes a kind of map for you to overcome your suffering. And ultimately the goal is not to overcome your suffering, but to embrace it and see it for what it is. And by doing that, you are participating in the unfolding of the universe!
That’s my Story!”
The days roll over each other like buttery layers of a croissant, congealed into weeks and months, together like flaking goodness of sweet and fat fused just perfectly imperfect by the blazing oven of creation.
I sat outside the Laundry Express on one of these particularly buttery days trying to use the space between loads as an opportunity for pastry reflection. Three weeks ago I lay curled up on the floorboards of my tent confronting the delicate edge between life and death, not necessarily suicidal per se, but certainly not filled with the will of life either. And now I’m sitting with my legs crossed downtown with damp feet, with one sultry croissant in my hand, wondering how I picked myself up and began to rediscover the source of life; my source for life. The journey to that source certainly is not over, most likely has just begun, but enough time and events and experiences have passed that I can split open that croissant and feel the soft steamy innards against my taste buds and salivate over the digestion of this little package of experience.
My newly acquainted friend slides through the sliding doors of the laundry center and sits down next to me on the firm plastic bench outside. A waft of detergent scent follows her out, mixing and dissipating with the ethanol infused vehicle emissions from a herd of cars passing by us in circles hoping to find an open spot in the parking lot. Laundry Express is one of the most popular destinations in Hilo.
I barely know this woman. I just met her that morning. She just moved into the vacant tent up at our place the night before. We shared coffee and bananas and pineapple for breakfast and somehow with the help of the buzz of caffeine and my nervous energy upon having a new jungle mate, we found ourselves knee deep in one of those conversations that is real hard to find a way out of. Philosophical. Political. Moral. Spiritual. It was messy.
But at the end of it we discovered both of us were in need of washing clothes and my was I relieved to find that out cause I was dead out of clean clothes with a couple more job interviews coming up and no way of getting my heap of possessive attire to town. But she had a car. A Cadillac. I think it was my first time in a Cadillac.
And sitting there on the firm plastic bench surrounded by fumes we also both discovered our passion for writing. She had come to Hawaii originally to hunker down and finally complete a book she’d been writing for 5 years, a collection of over 2,500 pages by now. A bit of a nightmare, if you ask me. I didn’t tell her so, but I did tell her how I so admired her for attempting to write a book, and even such an epic as that. I myself, I said to her, could really only handle writing little blogs, but wished that someday I’d write a book. Something that involves Mars perhaps.
When I asked for the premise of her book she asked if I knew what ‘M Theory’ or “String Theory’ is. I said I had heard of it and she went on to explain the 11 dimensions our universe is made up of and that her book is essentially 11 different stories all intermingled in a structure much like that of this ‘M Theory’.
I got all excited because it reminded me of how classic tales and ancient stories were told in a convoluted ‘more than meets the eye’ type of circular ‘ring theory’ way in which a hidden message could be found in the depths of the structure of how the story itself is told. One of my favorite examples of this is George Lucas’s creation of StarWars which is arguably the greatest modernization of myth to date (you can see what that’s all about here).
And her struggle to complete this story of her’s that seemingly turned into some kind of monstrous monstrosity with its massive accumulation of pages upon pages, weighing down on her pushing her ever so slightly further away from obtaining the ultimate goal of completion reminded me a bit of what my life was feeling like; this life in which I felt this enormity of potential pulsating from every cell and fiber of my being and trying so hard to work on the small things in my life so that I could realize that potential and become this greatness, this grandiose grandness I’ve always felt but could never find… in me.
She said, “I’ve been here for just about a year now and my book has made no progress. And it’s funny, because you know just 8 days ago I was just about ready to give up, and not just on the book, but my life. I couldn’t stop crying. For days, I just cried. And here I am now. I just bought a car and moved to a new place and am picking myself up and I’m okay with where I’m at and in fact I feel like somehow I’ve let go of control a bit and am allowing things to just happen, allowing my days to unfold, just as this book is unfolding. I do my best writing when I don’t really think about what I’m writing. It just comes out, layer upon layer.”
“Like a croissant.”
I point to the glazed flakes of what remained of my croissant sprinkled across my lap. “A croissant.”
“Oh. Yea. I guess.”
The wind had calmed down since the hours before when I drifted asleep in my swaying hammock underneath a bustling tarp. I could just hear the grinding and rolling of large smooth stones being pushed and pulled by the constant turbulence of waves mingling with the shore. A rhythmic constant penetrating my ear drums and reverberating in the cavities of my body. The stars were brilliant speckles piercing through the Ironwood and Kamani canopy cover. The dark loom of the steep valley walls enveloped my peripherals. Two words dripped from my lips in a steady repeat, “Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma.” I caught myself uttering this strange chant coming into full consciousness, shaken awake by the verbal resonance. And in that moment a vivid memory of my dream came flowing through the ether, passing through my vision like light projecting through rolling film.
I’m standing in the middle of some bazaar. There is business and commerce happening all around me. I feel like a passive observer. Not quite “there”. Like its just a hologram. I’m trying to see if I recognize anyone in the crowd, my curiosity about this unfamiliar place is growing. It doesn’t take long before I spot my father standing out in the open, and next to him is my stepfather. I cock my head. Huh, that’s strange. I never see them together. But it feels good, seeing them standing next to each other, my two fathers. They smile warmly and beckon me to join them, I do, and soon it’s apparent I am to follow them. They are taking me somewhere.
My fathers lead me down into some underground passage. It’s dark and damp, but it doesn’t feel scary. Water is dripping from the tunnel’s ceiling. We come out into a basement. On the other side of the room are two old women with white hair and gowns standing in front of some stairs leading up from the basement. It looks like they are guarding it. I look to my fathers. They nod their heads and the guardians step aside with grace. We head up the stairs into a well-lit room. It looks like some kind of workshop, unfinished projects lying everywhere covered in saw dust. A very old and ancient man with the widest smile and deep rosy cheeks is present. He turns to me and says, “Now, you must meditate on Brahma.”
Mid life crisis. The little Death. Initiation. Rites of Passage. The Belly of the whale. The Night Seas. The abyss. Cocooned. Metamorphosis. Mythology. Dreams. Symbology. Meaningful suffering. The significance of life. Participation in the sorrows of the world. When I dreamt that deeply symbolic dream in the Valley of Waimanu, I knew I was being sent a message. And I was excited, for messages are signs, a direct communication, a guidance, from nature; from the soul, the subconscious, to the cognitive prefrontal cortex in which I measly go about living out my limited days.
The soul communicates through our dreams in the form of images, an expression of visual dram images of the energies that inform the body and when our conscious self is particularly open and aware of the deeper existence of our whole being, those dreams become powerful messengers of divinity.
Yeah. You bet I was stoked. I did a little fist pump slumped back down in my hammock fell back down into sleep muttering the words remember Brahma…
The morning came, the wind was back, and my companion friend was already up, meditating on the rocky beach. I waited for him to finish, like a dog on it’s best behavior. I was eager to tell him about my dream. Especially because I knew nothing about the word Brahma, except that it sounded familiar, yet foreign. It reeked of spirituality. Daniel would know. He is well versed in spiritual thought.
“It’s sanskrit. From the Vedic texts. Brahma. Brahma is God, the creator, the destroyer. He is sort of the source of everything, and everything is an expression of Brahma.” We sat down to break our fast. “Here this might help. This is a prayer I say silently before every meal I eat. I’ll say it aloud this time…
…Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaiva Tena Ghantavyam
“It translates to this, ‘The act of offering is God, the oblation is God. By God it is offered into the Fire of God. God is That which is to be attained by him who performs action pertaining to God….’ It’s a powerful concept. It’s said to believe that the very cosmos evolved out of his being, Brahma, and that atma, your soul, is the expression of Brahma…” He drifts off, as if he’s not sure how much more he can really say about this Brahma deity, diving into his own contemplation on the matter of Brahma.
“I see,” I said, wrinkling my forehead, trying to grasp what Daniel just shared.
“You said you dreamt this?”
“yea… I was told by an old man to meditate on Brahma.” I related the rest of my dream to Daniel. Afterwards we continued on with our morning routine in silence, cleaning our camping dishes, packing up our hammocks, scraping the fungus out from between our toes.
“That’s a powerful dream, whatever it means.” Daniel finally said.
“yea,” I replied. “I think I’ll let it sit for a while.”
1 year and 4 months later, I’m sitting up late into the night, wide awake and I can’t stop thinking about the dream. Tomorrow I plan to wake up at 5am and bike 20 miles to a 7-mile running race. But right now, at this moment, there’s a symbolic dude with rosy cheeks smiling in my head telling me to meditate on some personification of the entirety of the universe. Well fine. Lets do this.
Time to research.
I type in “Brahma” on Google, and read the subsequent Wikipedia article. I write some notes down:
Brahma… gender specific…masculine…emerged as a deity, the conceptual personification of Brahman, a visible icon of the impersonal universe… Brahman is the ultimate formless metaphysical reality and cosmic soul in hinduism… from the Bhagavata Purana: Brahma is drowsy, errs and is temporarily incompetent as he puts together the universe… he becomes aware of his confusion and drowsiness, meditates as an ascetic, then realizes Hari (vishnu) in his heart, sees the beginning and end of the universe, and then his creative powers are revealed… Brahma thereafter combines Prakrit (nature, matter) and Purusha (spirit, soul) to create a dazzling variety of living creatures and tempest of casual nexus… he is attributed with the creation of Maya…wherein he creates for the sake of creating…perpetual cycle…on going… imbuing all things with good and evil… the material and spiritual…a beginning and end…Barhma is depicted with four heads looking in the four directions…creator of the four vedas…mounted on a swan… is of the Hindu trinity; Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.
Pause. Pen taps the notepad. I bite my lip in contemplation.
Contextual information. Nothing more. This isn’t mediation on Brahma. This is meditating on thoughts and ideas representing the concept of Brahma. I’m just researching Brahma. This can’t be what my dream message means me to do. I’m supposed to be Searching, not researching. But researching is what I know how to do. It’s a good skill, it’s just…limiting. But it’s all I have to go by. My intellect. My supple, yolky, tangental intellect. Oh Intellect, how thee connects dots and organizes patterns. How thee extracts reason from rhyme. Lets see what sense you make from all this. Lets see what conclusions you come to. I bet, my sweet sultry Intellect, that you’re going to arrive on the other side of analytical attempt dissatisfied with the answer you find. Here it goes.
Time to process.
I hope you’re ready for this. It’s a special invitation into the greased mechanics of my mind.
To start, the masculinity aspect seems significant here. Connection with my two fathers in my dream and Brahma being associated with the masculine energies. For me it seems masculine energy is a invitation into the descent. Okay let’s put that aside for now.
Moving on, what’s this Brahma/Brahman relationship? Gotta zoom out and do some theological/metaphysical didactics. Might get stuck on this thread for a while. Bear with me…. So Brahma is a God… ok what is a god? Well if we look at the majority of religions (not including Christianity, Islam, Judiasm, they’re the exceptions, funny enough), the commonality is that a god is some kind of personification of an energy form. Essentially, god is the collectively agreed upon imagery of a culture for the individual mind to grasp. It’s a metaphor to describe something actual. It’s not the actual, because the actual transcends our mind and the thoughts stored within. It’s just a model to help explain this transcendental thing we cannot apparently see or sense.
If God is human’s interpretive tool to help perceive different kinds of energies, then what are these energies and why create these allusive and mysterious mythologies surrounding them?
Ahhhhhhhhh. This is a good question is not! No this is really good. I think I’m starting to get somewhere. But before we move on, let’s distill this down just a little more. We’ve now learned the distinction between Brahma and Brahman. It’s the same distinction as Metaphor and Actual; A representation of a thing and the actual thing. Take that cup of coffee in front of you. The cup itself, on it’s own, is a just that: a cup. That’s Brahman. But the word “cup” that you attach to the actual object, that’s Brahma. Okay now let’s synthesize that with what Daniel told me a year and half ago. He said atma/soul is the expression of Brahma in each of us. The cup in front of you is the object. The concept attached to the object is the subject. That subject doesn’t exist in any means that we can see, it exists in our mind, a.k.a the ether. But it’s very significant. Just like you yourself are significant, right? Your body is the object; matter existing in nature, but you, well you are the subject. You are the soul. That’s Brahma. Your body belongs to Brahman, your soul belongs to Brahma…. you are the creative expression of Brahma, in your own way, an unraveling unique story with your very own plot; your own life.
Now here is where things start to get real interesting. Brahma was a concept created much later in the whole history of the Vedics; the ancient texts explaining the universe and how it came to be. The sanskrit verb root is Brih: to expand, conveying the Vedic concept of divine power of spontaneous growth bursting forth into creative activity. What this boils down to is that the universe continues to exist only by means of lifeforms appropriating energy to further create life. That’s why we’re god’s children. Think of your kids, or future kids, as an example. You create them, and thus their existence is the continuing evolutionary cycle of perpetuating life! It’s why phallic and vaginal symbols are prolific in many cultures, because fertility as regeneration is the only thing that keeps our temporal universe in eternal existence.
But none of that matters. None of that means diddly squat to hear nor to understand because get this – the essence of who we are, what we are, does not want to be handed the answers. This extinguishes the flame of life. It removes us from the Maya. Life is a mystery for a very important and vital reason: to keep us alive, to keep us living. And this so called God wants us alive because without us, God has no means in which to express itself. And religion and mythology and stories and songs and art and poetry, all these things that represent the truth behind the curtain, behind the illusion, that realm beyond the enclosure of maya, that’s all here to motivate us to keep on living, to keep searching, to keep creating. Whether you’re a monkey or a human or a polyp.
Just look at a good story. A well told story does not tell you straight up what the story is about. It doesn’t sit you down and spell out what the character’s qualities are, their flaws and faults and gifts and strengths. No. As the viewer, you have to go on a journey and discover it for yourself. You have to earn it through the guidance of the telling of the story by means of its structure and form. The structure and form are the symbology; the secret hidden meaning only to be revealed as it is expressed through the telling of the story. We hunger for these stories because it gives us flashes of insight into our own story, our own life. For a moment we see a greater truth, and we’re tricked into thinking we found it ourselves, and it is that moment of gratification from watching or listening to a well told story that parallels our own puzzling life. Our life tiny lives are placed in a greater realm of existence, one not bound by the physical confinements of a body in space and time. That experience is healing. It motivates us to continue to pursue our own life; our hopes, our dreams, our purpose.
So my psyche told me a story. I don’t know where my psyche got it from. I don’t know where it extracted the symbology of Brahma, or why it decided that would be a good symbol to use for me in particular. That understanding is beyond my intellect’s computational powers (Sorry old pal). I don’t know what all the parts mean, but I’m starting to grasp the overall message. It’s something like this:
It’s time to become a man. It’s time to come into my full being. To do this, I have to jump into the void of life, the underground. All I have to do is face all that I fear, all the pain and suffering and sorrow, I must use my creative energy to see past the guardians of the gate to the tree of life; the workshop; and embrace it with a rosy cheeks and joy and wonder and a cosmic desire to be closer with God – those tiny invisible particles and waves of energy informing my life of its nature and purpose. Now I just have to do it. I must participate in the sorrows of the world, as Buddha eloquently puts it. I must sacrifice the safety of my nest and go out and create a life for myself. And by doing that, I will be enacting the divinity in which our very universe is comprised of. Brahma. Not to shabby yea?
May I rest soundly, indubitably knowing that no matter how much I crave the truth, I will not find it by meditating on the concept of Brahma… only by meditating on Brahma himself… not the idea of god, but God itself.
And in the wise words of Yoda, I bid you good night
Premonitions, Premonitions… these visions you have…Careful you must be when sensing the future… the fear of loss is a path to the dark side… death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is… Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.