Continuing our discussion on Jungian Psychology, we explore myths, rituals and theology from their roots to the modern world. From a psychological perspective, we discuss:
Myths and the Modern World Transcript
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let's begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I am Debra Maldonado, here again with Rob Maldonado. We're so excited to bring this new series on Carl Jung, we love his work. Today we're talking about mythology, rituals, the collective unconscious. A juicy episode. But before we begin, I do want to mention, if you are listening to us on Spotify, iTunes, or all other podcast services, remember to subscribe on your chosen service, so you can hear previous episodes, but also the new ones that are coming out in the next few weeks on Carl Jung.
Robert Maldonado 01:14
I wanted to add, we really appreciate the comments that we've been getting on some of the podcasts.
Debra Maldonado 01:20
We’d also love to dedicate this to our Jungian coach graduates who are out there, spreading Jungian coaching out into the world and helping people become awakened to their true self and getting out of their patterns, really creating change in their life. Shout out to you guys. I've been doing self help personal development for decades. The idea of the collective unconscious is quite unique to Carl Jung.
Robert Maldonado 01:52
He's one of the pioneers in the area of the collective unconscious, which lends depth to his work. It’s hard to find in any modern psychology besides his work. When we talk about mythology, ritual theology, or religious philosophy, comparative religion, any of those topics, Jung's work gives us a framework from which to understand these concepts in a psychological way.
Debra Maldonado 02:31
I want to bring up the dream he had which actually led to understanding the collective unconscious. He had a dream, this isn’t verbatim, but he's in a house and keeps going down into the basement. Then he keeps going down further and further. Every level of this house is older, like medieval times, then he goes deeper to these really ancient times, paintings on walls and ancient artifacts. He's like “What’s this within my house?” He always saw the house as the self. He said “There must be some connection within us to these deeper realms.” Throughout mankind, we've told myths, whether it's religious myths, or stories and fairy tales. This is how we relate to the world and define cultures, the myths. It's a big part of our life. In modern times, our modern myths are movies and Netflix series, but they still have the same content of archetypes and stories, the patterns that have been universal.
Robert Maldonado 03:44
There's a strong connection, we can still make modern times movies that are true, as well as our current mythologies in different religions. In our approach, in Jungian coaching, the way we approach this work is: What can it tell us about our process of transformation? We want to go towards the self, we want to realize the true self. How do we move from over identification with ego towards the true self? Mythology is one of those elements that help us because it's the same language we see in dreams. It's the identical language we see in dream.
Debra Maldonado 04:34
They often feel like a mythic tale when we have the real deep dreams. I felt like I was in an episode of Game of Thrones or something.
Robert Maldonado 04:44
It implies that it is the unconscious that we're seeing in mythology. It is the collective dream, if you will, in mythologies, that's how Jung saw it. These mythologies we see all over the worlds, that essentially use the same symbols but in their unique cultural forms, are speaking the same language of the unconscious mind that we see in dreams. Therefore we can use it to study what is going on in the collective level of humanity.
Debra Maldonado 05:19
Let's talk about mythology. When we talk about mythology, how would you describe what mythology is?
Robert Maldonado 05:28
I like Joseph Campbell's definition of it. He says something like this, I'm paraphrasing, but he says something like: the myth is the collective dream, and the dream is the individual’s myth.
Debra Maldonado 05:44
We have a personal myth, he talks about us. If we think about our life and our narrative of our life, if we had to write down our memoir, that’d be our own personal myth because it's not absolute, it's from our perspective, idea, we’re the central character. But if someone else was going to write a book from their observation of our life, it’d be a different story. Maybe even nicer than our own personal description. When we talk about myth, it's more of a journey that a person goes on. There's a central character, there's something that's happening to that character, maybe a challenge that arises, a lesson.
Robert Maldonado 06:31
Certainly about meaning, the way we as human beings make meaning out of life. If you look at ancient myths, this is a fact Jung points out. He says, no one wrote the myth. It's never that so and so wrote this myth, you can’t essentially write myths. They're part of the collective, they simply arise out of the collective unconscious. We experienced them, they possess us.
Debra Maldonado 07:03
It's interesting because when I read the Upanishads, they always use mythological stories to explain a concept. This sounds a lot like something I read in the Bible, or this sounds a lot like what I read in some other book. It just feels like I've heard this story before. We reinvent or reuse these myths all the time. They have the core concepts that we carry through.
Robert Maldonado 07:35
Jung would say we use the same symbols. The way myths are expressed in the human psyche is that they use the same symbolic language, but it takes on different cultural context as they become conscious. As we become aware of them and use them, we make them our own, they become meaningful to us. As Swami Vivekananda says, if we look at religions all around the world, what they have in common is that they all have a mythology. They'll have a ritual or ritualistic system, they all have a philosophy, theology that explains how it does works. Those mythologies we see in different parts of the world, in different times and different religions are essentially using the same symbols, but in a unique cultural way. You see the serpent always playing a role in most religions.
Debra Maldonado 08:40
There's the feathered serpent in Mexico, Quetzalcoatl, then there's the dragon, or the serpent in Adam and Eve. You see it come up a lot, sometimes it's the devil, sometimes it's the god-man combination. Also, the dragon represents the mother. There's a lot of different ways depending on the context, this symbol can be used in different ways too.
Robert Maldonado 09:08
That's because just like in dreams, your dreams are speaking to your particular situation, your level of individuation and what you're experiencing. Mine are speaking to me in my individual way. Myths are the same way, they speak to a culture in their particular stage of development and evolution.
Debra Maldonado 09:35
When we are drawn into a story where we remember it because we have a memory of a similar story within ourselves, the story of our psyche.
Robert Maldonado 09:47
It’s no accident that we as humans created theater, created movies, created novels. All these story narrative forms are reflections of the way our psyche works.
Debra Maldonado 10:03
If you think about screenplays, you and I went to a screenwriting class in LA five or six years ago, every screenplay has the same structure. It’s a story of how the protagonist goes through the journey. We all have that. We forget that, as we live our life, we’re going through a journey, not just a journey externally, but internally. How do we navigate our life using our internal resources, dreams, visualization, synchronicities to guide us on our journey and to connect with myths? It makes it more rich and meaningful versus “I gotta go to work and make money, I have to have kids and get that corner house in the suburbs, get that job or that promotion.” There's this other journey that's happening. That's our personal myth of what we’re going to say about our life. When it's over, what's our story? What's our memoir that we would love to write about our life that is metaphorical?
Robert Maldonado 11:11
We're all the heroes of our own story, our own narrative.
Debra Maldonado 11:15
There’re always villains, the best friend, the assistance, the spiritual guide, all those things. Campbell talks a lot about the hero's journey. Very similar to the idea that we're all on this journey?
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Robert Maldonado 12:25
The other aspect of interest to us is ritual. Ritual, we're talking psychologically, not religiously, if we ask: What does this mean? Why would humans act out these rituals in such a religious way, in a sense that they're so meaningful to people, so important?
Debra Maldonado 12:49
Like burning the pictures of your ex-boyfriend on Valentine's Day, that ritual around the fire with all your friends, those things people do in modern life? You're talking about something a little more serious.
Robert Maldonado 13:03
I'm talking about the universal aspects of ritual that we see all over the world in every time and every phase of cultural evolution. We see people enacting rituals as a central aspect of religion or spirituality, as well as culture. The baptism, marriage is a ritual. People don't just say “We're married”, and that's it.
Debra Maldonado 13:37
Even the child going away to college is a ritual, like sending the child away out into the world.
Robert Maldonado 13:43
All these cultural forms are types of rituals. If we look at the significance of what these rituals are, we see, for example, sacrifice. Sacrifice is a universal one. It's in every culture, in every spiritual tradition we see around the planet. It includes sacrifice as a way of sanctifying, purifying life. If we look at some of the ancient rituals of sacrifice, they're often tied to what we do for work. For example, the shepherd takes care of the sheep. What is he or she going to offer to the Divine, to the God, as a burnt offering on the altar? One of their sheep, the work you're doing to survive, the things you have to do to live. You have to connect it to the divine.
Debra Maldonado 14:46
You can't just work for the money, it has to serve a higher purpose.
Robert Maldonado 14:55
It sanctifies it by connecting it to the Divine, rituals serves that purpose. Connecting our everyday life, the things that we have to do as our animal nature. We have to eat, we have to sleep, we have to procreate, do these very human elements of life. How can we connect them to the spiritual life? Through ritual, through sacrifice.
Debra Maldonado 15:25
Growing up, we always said prayer before dinner, said grace. Another ritual is, when I think about it, people who have their own business, doing sales, interviewing people for their services, that sales process can be a ritual. It’s an exchange if you're doing it because you want to do the work of your higher purpose. This is part of that sacrifice, I have to go and be uncomfortable, talk to people, invite them to be a part of my world. It’ll feel like work, you'll be resistant to it if it's not tied to higher purpose. If it's just for money, it's not going to inspire you, you're going to be like “I’ll just get a job and make money.” But that ritual of handing it over for your higher purpose, dedicating it for something better, a higher nature, that's really that ritual.
Robert Maldonado 16:25
We can also think about it at the individual level. Let’s go back to your example of burning your ex’s pictures. We've seen it in movies and stories. Individually, what it would mean is that you're sacrificing your past, you're letting go of it, you're offering it to the Divine and saying “I need to move on.”
Debra Maldonado 16:57
Fire is a purifier, so it's a purification when we do that.
Robert Maldonado 17:02
Also the symbolic meaning was that the smoke rising up to the sky was the ladder connecting the two, connecting as above, so below.
Debra Maldonado 17:14
Now it's like a letting go or releasing. These rituals are really important. We also talk about this in coaching, or even therapy, it's a ritual, you have a formal experience, you have a formal relationship, you have an exchange of money. There's a ritual there, like a process encapsulated into a 30-60 minute session. But when you give a friend advice, it doesn't have that magic because the ritual itself of having it set as a professional agreement has so much more power, it's just the ritual. Unconsciously, when we are doing these rituals, it has a lot of power to it, if we connect meaning to it.
Robert Maldonado 17:57
It is a way of making the chaos of life meaningful, giving it order, giving it a particular direction.
Debra Maldonado 18:07
Like a container for this thing, your transformation or whatever.
Robert Maldonado 18:12
Jung’s criticism of the modern world was precisely that we’ve forgotten the importance of ritual and consider it as part of our human childhood in a sense. Now we're growing up, now we have science, we don't need that. That's a mistake. Because we need to put meaning into what we do. If we don't have those rituals, we don't know how to enact them, don't know what they mean, we're losing out on important elements of human psyche that holds it together, that gives us structure and meaning in life.
Debra Maldonado 18:57
Let me ask you this question. What's the difference between a ritual and condition patterns or conditioned behavior? Because everyone has their morning ritual, or they do it out of habit, things you do out of habit versus something you do as a ritual. They could be my morning ritual. But what would you say would be the difference when we're talking about a mystical connection?
Robert Maldonado 19:21
I’d say habits are unconscious, conditioning is unconscious. We no longer are in control, we're no longer using our will. We're simply acting out of the environmental pressures.
Debra Maldonado 19:39
We're responding and reacting. The ritual has an intention behind it, a stronger and a conscious intention.
Robert Maldonado 19:47
If done correctly, a ritual liberates you from the conditioning by connecting you to your higher power. You’re able to see yourself as living from a higher source instead of just from the necessity to survive.
Debra Maldonado 20:08
As we go into the third one, theology, it's so important that ritual isn't done just randomly or borrowing a ritual from someone else. Theology is the key to that, tying that. It's not just the ritual alone, but it's around the myth, the ritual, then the theology around what is that really makes it meaningful.
Robert Maldonado 20:32
That's why they all go together, you need all the elements to really make it work. The mythology gives you the narrative or narratives that connect you to the higher self as larger life, the ritual gives you a way to connect your everyday survival needs to that mythology, because often rituals are enactments of the myth. You see it in the Last Supper, breaking bread as communion, which is the ritualization of the myth. Then theology, we can think of it as the religious philosophy or spiritual philosophy, which gives a deeper philosophical meaning of these rituals and myths, gives it a ground from which to live your life.
Debra Maldonado 21:35
It's really understanding the deep philosophical meaning of life that you ascribe to. That is: Who am I? What is consciousness? What am I made of?
Robert Maldonado 21:49
It’s the understanding of the nature of reality, the nature of your being, your purpose on earth. Without a philosophy, you can't understand that in a deep way, because you're living on the instinctual survival level, which for Jung was the ego persona level. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's not going to meet the deeper needs inherent in the psyche. Therefore, people have the crisis of meaning. They feel their life is empty. They have everything, they got material wealth, they got success, they got marriages, cars, jobs but they feel empty because they don't have deeper elements of the psyche in place.
Debra Maldonado 22:45
Being a bridesmaid in many weddings, the wedding can take over the beauty and what the purpose of the ritual is. It gets into what the band is, whether there is an open bar, who’s sitting with who, if the mother in law is coming or no, the divorces, what people are going to think, the dress. Sometimes we get lost in all the hoopla. Anytime we do one of these rituals, these milestones in life, we forget the sacredness of what you're doing. You're offering your life to another person in front of everyone that's close to you in your life. They say that's the only time in your life where everyone you care about and love is in the same room besides your funeral. So many of my friends that got married were like “My wedding day was a blur. It was too many people, too many things I had to track, it just was gone in a second, there was no space for that.” Those of you who are planning a wedding or planning an event like that, remember to take some time to honor the sacredness of what this experience is for both of you. Anything that you're doing, christening, baptism.
Robert Maldonado 24:12
Here's a quote talking about theology from John, third chapter, verse 30. He says “He must increase”, of course, he's talking about Jesus here, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Psychologically, what he's saying is “My ego, my individual identity, my persona must give way to the higher self.”
Debra Maldonado 24:43
There's another quote, “Not mine, but thy will be expressed.” That's not my will but thy will, and that's not like you don't have a free will but more like not letting your ego make the decisions.
Robert Maldonado 25:00
The old person must die so that the new one can take shape as the higher sell. You were raised as Catholic. You were born into a Catholic family, therefore you know some Christian mythology.
Debra Maldonado 25:20
It was very mystical. We believed in angels, prayed to God, had dinner every night. We had to go to church every Sunday. My father's was protestant, then he converted to Catholicism. We went to my Nana's church, she was protestant, it was so plain and so bare compared to the Catholic Church, which was a lot of the saints and all the paraphernalia, the incense. They're so close, they believe a lot of the same things, just the expression of the myth was so much more powerful for me as a kid to look at, go to the church and look at all the colors, and the stained glass, and the stories.
Robert Maldonado 26:08
Jung had a similar experience. He was born into a protestant family, but was intrigued by catholicism because of those mythologies and rituals.
Debra Maldonado 26:21
Wasn't his father a preacher? His father was a preacher, his grandfather was into psychology.
Robert Maldonado 26:27
In studying Catholicism and the rituals that it came from, some of them came from the pagan world and were carried into the Roman Catholic tradition. He was fascinated by all the myths and rituals he was able to observe, still living in the Catholic Church.
Debra Maldonado 26:49
When you're raised that way, you don't think of it as mystical, you just think this is what it is. When I went into my New Age phase where I was doing crystals and sages, I thought catholic is different. My friend said “It's very mystical. They have the incense, the spirits, the saints.” It was not much different from that mystical part of ourselves, there's a life after death, there's a soul. That's what gave me a good foundation of understanding these myths too, and even a deeper connection because I remember having real deep love. In yoga philosophy, bhakti yoga is devotional love. Feeling connected to all those rituals was very powerful.
Robert Maldonado 27:42
Jung's remedy for the modern human world was to develop a psychology or philosophy that included these elements of the psyche in a conscious way. His attitude was that we've grown up, we've gone through dropping of the old traditions and relying on our own intelligence and science in the world. But we see that we need those ancient structures because they're part of our inheritance, they're part of our DNA, it's in our blood to connect to something bigger than ourselves.
Debra Maldonado 28:29
Sit around the campfire and talk about the myths and the ancestors. It's something that's been done for thousands and thousands of years.
Robert Maldonado 28:39
The rituals, the deeper philosophy of the higher self, you can’t throw it away, it's a mistake to neglect it.
Debra Maldonado 28:52
We brought this up before, but the ritual of becoming a woman or a man. Back in the indigenous cultures, they had a passage going from 10-11 years old to puberty. You're becoming a man, they throw you out into the jungle if you're a guy. Or something with a woman, when she got her period, there was a ceremony for that. We disconnected from all that. These things pass and it's like “Next, move on.” We don't have that passage of the milestones of our life, we should bring them back because it is beautiful. I do like the idea though, if you think of your life, asking what your myth is right now. If you were going to write a memoir of your life, what is your personal myth right now? What are the rituals you're doing every day that drive that myth? What is the worldview or the philosophy that's driving your personal myth and these rituals? Your personal myth may be “I'm a corporate woman, I work really hard”, the ritual is “I take the train to work, I work really hard, I get a paycheck, rest on the weekends, I keep waiting for retirement.” Then the worldview would be “This is all there is.” That could be your myth, that could be what drives you, but we want to investigate “What if we lived a more meaningful life?” You can start saying “How do I want my myth to play out? What story do I want to tell about my life?” If it was a blockbuster movie, everyone wants that for their life, something really extraordinary.
Robert Maldonado 30:37
We see in the modern world, the potential is tremendous. We have science, we're creating artificial intelligence, all this technology. Imagine combining it with this deeper philosophy of meaning, identity, and potential along with a mythology that instructs us and guides us even to become an interplanetary species, something that really just transcends our everyday survival strategy and takes us to that higher realm of the gods, as Jung would say, that's really the potential here. Whenever there's a crisis, just like in individual life, it's a turning point, it's a place of transformation opening the door to new opportunities, new ways of seeing the world, new ways of being. Right now the planet is in a crisis, it's a perfect time to think about these things. What is the mythology that we live by? What are the rituals? What is the deeper spiritual philosophy that can guide us through this passage of crises?
Debra Maldonado 32:04
The old rituals and the old philosophy got us where we are now, which is lack, the earth is separate from us, we're not part of this ecosystem, somehow we can ruin it in some way and still be okay. That deep worldview of greed and not caring about the planet has those consequences. If we can create that, we can create the opposite. We can awaken people's minds, it's not about putting people down. There's definitely legislative change and all those things, but it's about holding the vision of a world where we do care about the environment. If you look at it, there's a lot of people that really care. They are awakened to this concept of us being part of the earth. What we need to do is awaken more people and do our part. Holding that bigger vision of what can be possible to turn the ship around.
Robert Maldonado 33:05
Thanks for tuning in. Next time, we will continue our conversations on Jung’s contribution to humanity.
Debra Maldonado 33:13
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