The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Monday, 9 June 2014
symbolic truths mark 2
The supernatural? What fairy stories are about is a symbolic representation of what it means to be human. They're about that most crucial of human faculties, the imagination.
Where they come from, if you subscribe to the views of depth psychology, is the collective unconscious. This is not 'supernatural', but the bedrock of the human psyche.
And magic? Oh, allow us a little, Richard, please. A novel is magic. A transporting work of art is magic. A piece of good music is magic – if by magic we mean the ability to transform our state of consciousness, for no matter how brief a period.
Dawkins is a champion of our current rationalist zeitgeist, of a materialist worldview. That is as troubling as his words. We live in impoverished times, in the Western world, in relation to our inner lives. That's the real concern, for me, in what he had to say.
A world that can only value what can be proven to exist by rational assessment, objectively and scientifically verified, is a world with a paucity of imagination. That's a dangerous world. That's a disconnected world. As I have mentioned so many times here, as author Lindsay Clarke says, without imagination, compassion is not possible.
There are, as I have written here before, literal truths and symbolic truths. Each is true within its own frame of reference, and it's as foolish to muddle them up as it is to discount one or the other. Both are necessary for us to live a full, rounded, creative and human life.
What symbolic truths speak to is an inner sense of what we need to know to best live our lives*. We are storymaking animals as far back as we can trace. Stories (and poems, and myths, and fairy tales) all speak of the garnered wisdom of our species in relation to not only physical survival but also the ability to thrive and grow as emotional, psychological, and spiritual individuals with our own unique talents to contribute to our community. They also speak of the gifts and dangers of being a human, being alive. Beneath them resonate archetypes from the great storehouse of the collective unconscious – this is what gives them their power.
What fairy tales offer to a child is a hook for the imaginative nature, so that it may grow and expand; a reassurance that children can and do survive all sorts of upsets and horrors; a reminder that that child's experience has been shared by others; a conduit for the outer and inner worlds to meet and cross-fertilise each other; a roadmap for the journey to adulthood and the particular types of trials and gifts to expect as well as their context in an environment; and a blueprint for the kinds of qualities a child may need to thrive and become an empowered adult.
And that's not to mention the sheer entertainment value.
* This is in effect the content of my first book, Riding the Dragon – myth & the inner journey (Element 1994).
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