Where is the green movement headed? Many say to the same old corporate greenwash bank and China bent productization that got us into this economic and spiritual chaos. The system is broken. And separating your trash will not create a new world for our global family. Composting is just an inch. We need a mile. Explore how new sound and artistic alchemy and Nature-based mythologies can greatly assist us now toward a transition to a truly sustainable community.
We have collected four responses from the recent Activating Myth, Alchemy & Sustainability – Fall 2010 Planetshifter.com Magazine Survey to champion these new tools, images and stories to spark your consciousness and bring us together in more powerful ways.
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Although for some it seems that mythology is something that no longer applies to life, for many every day encounters with mythologies, old and new, are sources of inspiration. As unique points of reference, mythological themes, often emerging from surprising places, can become powerful drivers for creative thinking.
[R.1] It think of myths as very old stories. New mythologies sounds odd to me. I read Greek, Roman stories that contain mythological figures. I am familiar with other traditions too, Norse stories, Celtic, African storytelling, some Asian traditions, but not as much as European. There are many overlaps in the stories told, which is always so interesting,
[R.2] At this time, mythology appears to describe transpersonal themes, chaotic attractors that act out as fractals, within our bodies, individual relationships and culture at large. Gods manifest as impulses, synchronistic themes within awareness and as broader social movements.
I do encounter new mythologies. The works of Burroughs, Kirby, Crowley, Grant, Morrison, Frank Herbert, Alexander Dumas, Evola and Ballard all particularly inspire me to think in mythological terms. The music of Marilyn Manson, Rush, Deltron 3030, Sun Ra, Eminem, Wu-Tang all also have led me to meditations on mythological elements.
[R.3] Every day I find myself deferring to mythology, my understanding of symbols and archetypes. As far as new mythologies, they emerge from new dynamics. I seek out comic books as sources to inspire me to think in mythological terms.
[R.4] Sub-systems within the context of past or current events, places, and regarding groups or individuals on either small or large scale, that are imbued with a resonating “theme” or story. For example, columnists, essayists/bloggers, entertainment media, etc., are all purveyors of new mythology.
Many are searching for new clues and can offer some symbols, songs or stories that speak in mythological terms for the Sustainability Age. Look into your mp3 library.
[R.1] Creation stories are always humbling. Usually we arise from mud/earth. The notion that we need to return to earth is suggestive of useful cycles…maybe inevitable cycles that we can’t escape. There is also the recurring image of the hero needing to go to the underworld in order to prevail, reach a higher level. We are not a society that wants to spend much time in the underworld facing some ultimate challenge. If more people were willing to be so inconvenienced, we probably wouldn’t have the natural disaster that is looming.
A bit less mythological, but relevant for me and ecology is the notion of reverence. This was a historic virtue that required the powerful to not harm those under their control. This was particularly in war, but it relates to modern day power players (money) who have not sense of reverence for those less powerful, or the earth that deserves care.
[R.2] Ghost of Chance, Burroughs; Gaia, Alex Grey[ the Geodesic dome
[R.3] Ideas of rebirth and renewal are so prevalent in myth. The symbol of the tree of life, the idea that superheroes pass on their mantles, the belief that nothing ever dies, cosmic consciousness, and the internet and all it encompasses are relevant for the “Sustainability Age.”
[R.4] Earth Day: the big globe, bouncing about the heads of happy, healthy children.
- The color green.
- The term “green.”
- The recycling symbol, along with the green and blue bins.
- The Prius.
- The Baby Harp Seal Image.
- Jacques Cousteau and Greenpeace: as icons of “pure” intentions toward life systems.
One of the best ways to encounter mythology is through music and books. Many bands or authors stir our imagination these days.
[R.1] I’ve been reading Homer and Virgil lately. I can’t think of contemporary music or books that tap into this dimension. I can think of some poetry that reaches to mythological figures to ground it, bring the message to a wider sphere, but this is not generally contemporary poetry. I could try to notice this more, but not much comes to mind at the moment.
[R.2] Theodore Sturgeon, Rudy Rucker, Don Webb, Bruce Duensing, Mark Pesce.
Fleet Foxes, Secret Chiefs
[R.3] I’ve recently delved into Rudy Rucker, whose depictions of robots in archetypical situations are thought provoking. In comics, it has to be hands down Grant Morrison, who tears apart and rebuilds archetypes and mythology word by word. Musically, it’s harder to say.
[R.4] There are so many. World music is certainly one media that inspires me and intrigues me. The expression of different cultures through the translation of their literature: “The Incredible Lightness of Being;” UK Building’s Sustainability News Section (http://www.building.co.uk/technical/sustainability/); the Harry Potter books. Unusual travelogues such as Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island”; Georgeanne Brennan’s “A Pig in Provence”; Edith Wharton’s various travel essays, etc.
And interesting explorations such as Kelley’s “The Ten Faces of Innovation”; and Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded.”
We live in a rapidly changing world, the ancients had a practice that sought to investigate the process of change in a way that coordinated with their ideas of universal harmony. They called this study alchemy. The new alchemy intrigues us.
[R.1] Sounds like making gold out of cheap ingredients. Sorry I’m not more sophisticated than that on the subject.
[R.2] Very much so. I consider my own ethnobotanical process a red-headed stepchild of the alchemists. Hearing about Israel Regardie’s accident, alongside space constraints, put me off traditional alchemy though.
[R.3] Absolutely. I’ve studied modern alchemists extensively. Guys like Jack Parsons who melded science and magic seamlessly.
[R.4] Yes, as it is innovation, science, and myth all wrapped up together.
Everybody has something that really sparks them, something that gives them a focal point for their creativity. What activities inspire your creativity?
[R.1] Being exposed to new things. Travel can do it. I’m looking forward to a trip to Europe this fall and I hope to be energized by that. I track the internet for new input. I read a lot, and lately have been reading more poets. I spend a fair amount of time attending to nature. I live in a small place and have the luxury of being in nature quite a lot. I also have a long history in environmental studies, work in the field, so many memories of natural surroundings and what happens there.
[R.2] The ethnobotanical preparation process. Engaging in narrative space online.
[R.4] The study of beauty in the familiar and unfamiliar, through all the senses, in both the built and unbuilt world. I love observing people and soaking up the “moment.” There is nothing more wonderful to me than just sitting in a pew in St. Peter’s basilica, listening to the whispering penitents, watching the play of light as it moves over the sculptures and architecture, smelling the mustiness of the place, and feeling the coolness offered by the thick walls that protect the occupants from the hot, Roman afternoons. It’s all the dimensions of the place that inspire me.
Recent news has seen no end to stories of global issues that demand immediate attention, and in an interconnected world we’re finding out quickly that even local issues can cause global challenges. Can you give
us the top three global issues that need to be repaired?
[R.1] A UN negotiator in an interview once said the three barriers to peace are poverty, ignorance and hatred. Since the environment is inextricably linked to issues of peace, I would stick with that fellow’s intuition.
[R.2] Housing distribution, elimination of resource depleting occupations (busy work, for money), psychosomatic armoring
[R.3] Fear of neighbors, fear of god, fear of running out.
[R.4] The premise that consumption is the basis for economic strength. The reconciliation of the individual and community – restoring the social contract and a sense of civics. The expediency of supporting inhumane regimes for political gain and position – the world needs to revisit its sense of ethics. We can’t be living in a sustainable world where people are being tortured and killed so that another group of people can feel more powerful, or become rich at the former’s expense.
Alchemists used their physical experiments to focus their meditations on the nature of the universe. Musicians and artists very often do the same thing through their creative efforts. Many experience the process of alchemy through sound and visual art. Some examples include:
[R.1] Well, I write poetry right now and hope to link to something larger, some kind of universal, but to say I do is sort of premature. One can hope, and try, but it is a pretty big mystery. Might be something like grace, or luck, or chance…even to talk in these terms is probably on the road to ruin. Best to lean into it, do what I can and move along to the next thing.
[R.2] For a period of time I felt compelled to bring images from dreams into manifestation. When I enter the low-range of the DMT trance, aspects still related to me personally present music that I’m interested in learning to approximate within consensual space.
[R.3] Absolutely. For me writing and creating is an art of channeling. Maybe it’s a higher consciousness, tapping into or acting from an altered state, or relating to others’ perception of reality. Creating a space and consecrating it, experimenting with chemicals (ahem), and using the scientific process are all integral parts of the use of alchemy to create art.
[R.4] Absolutely. Music transports me. It can shape my mood.
The intimate processes of nature played a strong role in the alchemical arts, and mythologies often find the central themes in natural processes. Can permaculture be defined in alchemic or mythological terms or processes?
[R.1] I know some folks using permaculture as a model for their land/farm. I have not heard them talk about it in mythological terms. Certainly working within natural cycles is a good thing, and perhaps there are synergies that can be developed on a piece of land. I think the variables of weather (heat, cold, rain or not) as well as the history of the land/economics of the farmer might overshadow natural cycles this type of cultivation pursues. I don’t think overall I’m negative on the concept, but wonder if reaching for myth is helpful.
I also know some biodynamic farmers here, who have many concoctions and preparations they use to make changes on their farms. These folks might fit the mythological model better. I don’t know if what they do makes a difference in how things grow, but I do know what they grow tastes really good. Really good.
[R.2] Of course it can. The New Alchemists provide a historical example of this. John Michael Greer has a ongoing series at The Archdruid Report along these lines as well… I believe the term he uses is Green Wizardry.
[R.3] I look at the ambitious work of Paul Laffoley here. A modern magician, alchemist, artist, and protean, he has explored these realms and made them earthy. I think that taking similar steps to his can create a structure by which we can move forward.
[R.4] Non lo so.
Our contemporary view of religion has been largely influenced by urban growth and the interests of capital. Is there a shift away from traditional religion to a more Nature-based view?
[R.1] Broadly no, but I live in a pocket of this kind of thinking. We have many in the hills and valleys around here who find a religious home in nature more than in a building for worship. I’m not sure really this line will result in more ecological solutions either. We need people in pews becoming more reverent, not probably getting people out of pews so they can be reverent. If that makes sense.
[R.2] This question confounds me, since any coherent Nature-based view has to integrate urban growth and capital instead of what appears to me as an implied dissociation here.
[R.3] I see a lot of naive naturalism, like Rousseau’s savage and the Arts and Crafts movement. The general sustainability movement seems committed to a secularist position and appears to have commodified itself into impotence.
[R.4] I wish. Sadly, those who live in nature, hunters and farmers, are drawn towards traditional religion and all the bigotry, hatred, and fear that it spawns. But there are those who look at sustainability as a necessary element to survival. Those who actualize the dream of the co-op or the Thoreau/Emerson ideal of the individual who provides for the community. I have known people to live from their vans, start organic fruit farms, and become totally self-sufficient out of no political or religiously motivated ideal outside of self-betterment.
I fear that human beings are flawed, and that as individuals or in groups will always be utilizing religion (of one sort or another) to advance their agendas. Guess that kind of rules out point numbers 1 through 3 in Item 6 above.
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Explore the New Alchemy and Mythologies at:[ open myth source ]