The Myth of the Great Ending. Interview with Author Joseph M. Felser, Ph.D. by Willi Paul. Co-Sponsored by CommunityAlchemy.com with openmythsource.com
Excerpts from The Myth of the Great Ending -
“Once a visionary insight has been formulated and expressed, openly and publicly, there is no going back. You either shoulder the responsibility for making it real or you shirk it… As Descartes observed, if you are tearing down your house in order to rebuild it from the foundation up, it makes sense to find temporary shelter… A provisional world-view is like a sweater borrowed from a friend. It keeps you cozy and warm in the short-term, but you don’t intend to keep it… Better to have a movable teepee than a castle made of stone. (p. 206)
The old shamans were right after all…everything within the time loop is the cause of everything else – and so the future creates the past.” (p. 92)
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Interview with Joseph by Willi
Define myth for us.
Myths are subtle energies that manifest in our awareness as metaphorical images in narrative form. They both structure our perceptions of reality and create it at the same time. Myths thus enable us to both find and make our external world of “hard fact”—the two functions being inseparable, just as quantum physics tells us that the observer cannot be separated from that which is observed. Myths, in other words, are stories that spontaneously arise out of the abyssal depths of the human psyche (and I am here using this term literally, as the ancient Greeks did, to mean “soul”, and not mere “mind”, as modern psychologists do), just as our dreams do every night when we sleep. We don’t invent myths; they invent us. As Joseph Campbell said, myths are public dreams and dreams are private myths. The difference is that the myth comes from a deeper psychic level and is addressed to the collective (primarily), whereas the dream comes from a relatively shallower psychic level and is addressed (principally) to the individual. But there is often overlap and these distinctions are never absolute.
All new age, dark age and sustainability ages aside, how likely is the extinction of humans on Earth in the next 100 years?
Well, I don’t know about Dodo-like extinction, but I would certainly say that we are “cruisin’ for a brusin’”, as my childhood friend’s mother would say when she would warn him of the likely consequences of his over-the-top behavior. Our seemingly dominant position on this planet may well become but a distant memory, or perhaps forgotten altogether by the remnant. But I believe that the future is open—more like my datebook, with likely projections penciled in by me, than a pre-printed novel with the ending predetermined by the author. We have choices to make. Or not.
Many in the west are over-mediated, 24/7 wired-out and sunken into their shallow sensory, short-term selves. Where is the community building going to come from to save us?
I’ve had some interesting discussions about technology with my students of late. They are starting to complain that they feel like emotional, social and intellectual “retards” (their word, not mine)—that they can’t feel things deeply, relate to each other face to face, or even read and write, thanks to their constant immersion in the digital soup. I think that the decisive act of rebellion will and must come from within—from inside the ranks of those who are most immersed in the new media and instrumental forms, and who are the ones most damaged by having been raised to believe that living this way is only “natural” (that is, inevitable). They will have to figure out what is missing and how to obtain it. That will be their Hero-quest. Salvation cannot come from without—that is the old paradigm, and it is obsolete. They will have to find ways of creating and sustaining new forms of community that nurture our essential humanity, which means connecting us to ourselves, to each other, to the earth, and to the greater, mysterious reality that is the source of all we know. What we have now does not do that. It is not working.
What is “soul?” Is this not just another Sunday cartoon ploy by the entrenched religio-corps?
The concept of the “soul” as it exists, say, in Christianity is not the archaic or even the ancient idea at all. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 500 BCE) said, “You would not find the boundaries of the soul (psyche), even if you travelled along every path, so deep a measure does it have.” If you can’t find the soul’s boundaries (because it has none), then by definition it is boundless, depthless—in a word, infinite. Now, in the western monotheistic tradition, “infinite” is a term reserved only for God and denied to His creation. But in the pre-theistic (animist) view, you can’t say that my soul stops here and yours begins there, or that the earth is a dead rock that has no soul—it’s not a personal possession, you see. It is the infinite. And everything partakes of infinity by its very existence. There’s no soul salvation needed!
“Salvation” is a marketing device for what you call “the entrenched religio-corps”. Properly speaking, then, the soul is what connects all things at the energetic level, including the plants, the animals, the rocks, and so forth—just like the indigenous people said. It is, to borrow Joseph Campbell’s phrase, the invisible plane that is behind and supportive of the visible plane, or the non-physical aspect of all that is physical. Everyone and everything has, and is, soul. It’s the universal club that does not discriminate or reject members. Not one. We’re all plugged in from the get-go, and there’s no monthly charge (or surcharge) for being connected.
Please explain the difference between nature lovers and green religioners.
I would say this. Everything is a commodity today. This is nothing new, of course; it is just an exponential extension and proliferation of the mentality that has been in charge for a long, long time—a change in the quantity, but not the quality, of consciousness. It is possible therefore to say that one “loves” nature like some people say that they “love” art when they collect paintings or sculptures done by artists they admire. But this is just another mode of acquisition, a symptom of consumerism. Whereas really “loving” art would involve actually doing some art, and thus thinking, feeling, and acting like an artist. Being creative oneself is a much deeper and tougher commitment than purchasing someone else’s creative products. Similarly, “loving” nature has to have a deeper, experiential component that translates into behavior and action. The Sioux Chief Luther Standing Bear talked openly about the Indians’ “abiding love” for all creatures. “The Lakota was a true naturalist—a lover of Nature,” he declared. And this love was demonstrated in the reverential way of life they lived.
“… a desire for reconciliation between our inner and outer worlds – nature and our own natural spirituality?” How would you explain this to a 9 year old? An 86 year old?
I’d tell them: Dig in the dirt. Watch the worms crawl. Enjoy the sunset. Go to sleep when you’re tired, and eat your breakfast when you’re hungry. Ponder the dreams you had last night. Be a good 9-year-old and a good 86-year-old. These are different stages of life, with different values and challenges, yet each is also an integral part of the overall cycle. We’ve lost contact with these natural rhythms. I walk outside to smell the fresh morning air, and I am assaulted with the toxic chemical perfume of those chemical-laden sheets that people put in their clothes dryers to make their clothes smell “nice”. Children act as if they are far older than their years, while adults addicted to plastic surgery transform themselves into bloated, frozen caricatures of youth. It’s a horror show - Frankenstein’s monster run amuck.
What should humans, regardless of nationality or religion, see as sacred now? Is the lack of sacred fueling the end of the world now?
Joseph Campbell said that unless a mythology is able to give its adherents a direct experience of the mystery of existence--of the invisible plane that is behind and supportive of the visible--it is not performing its most essential function. Somehow that dimension must be tapped, not as a mere concept or belief but as an experienced reality, here and now. How many people are having that experience today? I don’t know. But I think that its absence is driving our obsession with control of externals, acquisition of money and power (whether by states or non-state actors), the bankruptcy of our political and cultural systems, and all of the other destructive and self-destructive behaviors we see around us. It’s literally driving us crazy.
When you look at those old photographs of the North American Indian tribes from the late 19th century, you see a highly spiritual people who were yet entirely at home in this physical world and in their own bodies. You can see it in their faces and in their posture. They were rock solid, yet as light as air at the same time. There was no contradiction. They experienced the visible plane as a manifestation of the invisible, and both were part of nature. Spirit wasn’t against matter, and matter wasn’t against spirit, for matter itself was spiritual and sacred.
Do you have an understanding of permaculture and the new alchemy as a pathway to the future? (see: http://www.planetshifter.com/node/1814)
I have to confess that I may be the last person in the western hemisphere with only dial-up internet access, so I can’t watch your video here at home (though I will when I am in my office at the college). From what I know about the Permaculture movement, I would say that anything that stresses the sacredness of the earth, the search for a way of life that does not harm the planet (and ourselves), and the rejection of the consumerist mentality, is an essential step in the right direction.
What is your favorite end of the world myth? Movie?
My favorite end of the world myth is that Sioux story I mention in the book that tells how “turtle island” came about. The story starts off by saying that there was a world before this one (actually, as the story unfolds, we find out that there were two worlds prior to ours), and it ends by suggesting that there very well could be a world after this one. One gets the sense of the cycle—that there will never be an absolute end and there never was an absolute beginning, there is only change in accordance with the way of nature. Mother Nature always gets her way.
Perhaps that’s why my all-time favorite end-of-the world movie is “Gorgo”, an old British sci-fi /monster movie from the early 1960s. It’s kind of a mixture of Godzilla and King Kong, but even better. A couple of greedy huckster-adventurers capture a large dinosaur-like creature and bring it back to London, where it becomes an exploited circus attraction. Then they realize that this huge creature is just a baby—and Mother comes looking for her little one. In the process, she decimates the city and rescues her baby, bringing it back with her to the sea. We were no match for Her!
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Joseph M. Felser, Ph.D. Bio –
Joseph earned his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago and is an associate professor at Kingsborough Community College/CUNY in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of The Way Back to Paradise: Restoring the Balance between Magic and Reason. His work appears regularly in scholarly journals and he was invited to give the Keynote Address at the world-renowned Monroe Institute’s 20th Professional Seminar in March 2006.
Joseph M. Felser
JFelser at Kingsborough.edu
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