Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience… of which, the purpose is too deep for mental explanation or description.
Mythologies are deep and eternal. The various myths and legends that we encounter often provide a sacred narrative of how this world and its people came to be in its present form. In most cultures, they often provide a description of the society’s dreams, hopes and fears. Bruce Lipton once described mythology as “ideology in a narrative form”.
At the level of the individual, mythologies that give our lives significance are deeply primal and archetypical and can also free us from our unauthentic lives and connect us to a deeper sense of our own selves. They link our passions
and pains to those who have come before us and help us learn the very essence of being human.
Researchers and writers have often tied the structure of mythology to the essence of personal growth and individuation. Joseph Campbell in his writings has described the “mono myth” or the journey of the hero, which follows the same pattern across various cultures in the world.
Given the deeply embedded nature of mythologies in our collective psyche, this article posits that every individual consciously or unconsciously lives out his or her own personal mythology which follows deeply held patterns. Each mythology follows a path, which has a fairly stable and predictable beginning, middle and end. There are different “categories” or “types” of mythologies, each with its own unique path, which draws the individual towards its own actualizing potential. As an individual journeys through a mythology, it gets reflected in both his internal journey as well as his external behavior and actions.
For e.g – an individual living a “warrior” mythology will see the external world as a competitive battle field, where the movement forward is about “winning”. In his internal journey also, “growth” will be seen as conquest of his underlying “fears” or “improvement areas”.
The paper is not intended to categorize or explain all “types” of myths but to examine its application specific to coaching situations. Our objective is to help a coach identify the possible life mythologies a client may be consciously and unconsciously living and to help the client become aware of its liberating and limiting characteristics. The article draws from the works Jung’s work on archetypes, Joseph Campbell’s writings on mythology and Pearson’s work on Archetypes and owes a deep gratitude to these great thinkers.
Defining a Mythology
Jung asked himself, What myth am I living by? Finding that he did not know, he wrote, “I took it upon myself to get to know ‘my’ myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks. – Joseph Campbell
There are various definitions of mythology and while revisiting some of them, we would like to define it for the purposes of this paper in a way that is more inclusive rather than narrow. Mythology has often been considered a “over elaborated or distorted narration of history”. In ancient cultures, mythology was seen as “sacred” and was often endorsed by the kings and the priests. Very often, “mythology” is confused with the word “myth” and because of its literal meaning “falsehood” many people believe “mythologies” refer to “untrue” or “imaginary” stories.
We take a broad view of the word mythology and define it as
any traditional story, which could be seen as a true account of a remote or recent past
Apart from the definition, it may be useful to also have a perspective on what the basic functions of mythologies are – Campbell believed myths have four basic functions: the Mystical Function—experiencing the awe of the universe; the Cosmological Function—explaining the shape of the universe; the Sociological Function—supporting and validating a certain social order; and the Pedagogical Function—how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.
In this paper our view is largely restricted to the exploration of the pedagogical view especially with regard to the coaching situation.
A Non-Exhaustive list of Mythology Types
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge – myth is more potent than history – dreams are more powerful than facts .. -Robert Fulghann
As stated before, the intent of this paper is not to create an exhaustive list of categories but to generate an understanding of some of the prevelant mythologies in world literature and the basic structure for each of these categories. Some of the more prevalent mythology types in our experience are as follows:
The Hero or Warrior Mythology:
This is perhaps the most prevalent of all mythologies carried through to the current times and even a great deal of the current cinema is a reflection of this mythology. Greek and Roman Mythologies are replete with stories of warriors – Achilles, Carmilla, Spartacus are all stories of the warrior world. In some stories, it takes the form of a “crusade” and standing up for a revolution. In others, it takes the form of conquering new lands or protecting ones own. In Indian mythology, Arjuna, is considered the true warrior prince. In cinema, the depiction of the warrior or the hero resonates with movies such as Star Trek and continues to The Matrix or Avatar.
The Healer Mythology:
Also deeply embedded in our psyche, the healer mythology can be associated with individuals such as Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa. The basic essence of this mythology is living in service of the other, often at great personal cost. Jung also speaks about the wounded healer myth of Chiron, which suggests that search and healing of one’s own wounds could be the reason why they might move towards healing others.
The Lover Mythology:
Typified by stories such as Romeo and Juliet or Laila Majnu or Heer Ranjha, (Indian Myth), these stories revolve around the human intimacy and the consummation of the two individuals in their passion. Very often, these stories have a tragic end, suggesting that when caught in this myth, there will a movement towards “annihilation”, if not in the external world, in the internal world with the diffusion of boundaries and perhaps obsession to the extreme.
The Wanderer Mythology:
The wanderer mythology is characterized and deeply embedded in “Siddhartha”, the work from Herman Hesse and essentially enumerates the core of the wanderer myth. The movement through different worlds without belonging to any of them – the amorous relationship, the world of business, the meeting with the Buddha and eventually settling down at a river side with a boatman – exploring and finding one’s own meanings about life and living.
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