*originally published at The Eyeless Owl
As we, as a culture or as a counter culture, attempt to reclaim our past, our worlds, our realities, we are turning quite rightly to myth.
This is an obvious and admirable decision; the searchers look and the searchers define but it seems as if they are often looking in the wrong places and defining the wrong things.
There has been recent discussion of science fiction and fantastic literature as the repository of our living mythology. This is a mistake; world-building fantasists are not engaging in real myth, but an empty rather truncated form. Myth is the Reality in which the culture lives. It is Reality. Period.
Do you think that the Kwakwaka’wakw of Canada’s Pacific Coast (http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/aborig/nwca/nwcam25e.shtml and http://www.umista.org/) thought they were involved in some so banal as world building? No. Obviously they were (and are once more) participating in the mythical world, a world more real, a foundational world, a world that built their world.
The dance is a supernatural dance, mythical beings representing abstractions of realities (supernatural birds, ‘The Listener’ from the Dance of the Forest Spirits – making physical abstract concepts) and solidities (bear, other forest animals – abstracting and mythologizing the physical), and all the people were seeing it as it was. Real.
This is not cosplay; there is no suspension of disbelief here, no LARP emptiness, but pure Reality. Because this is the world in which they lived. The Listener was in the Forest Dance because the Listener really is in the Forest.
This is the world where Raven stole the Sun for us all. The people saw Raven every day as a constant reminder of the mythological foundation of their world, the First Time was a different time, celebrated in myth. It was a time when animals and humans were indistinguishable from each other. It is this world:
“I will talk about the middle between our world and the upper side of what is seen by us, the blue sky where the sun and moon and stars stay, that is what I mean, the names of the various birds of the Rivers Inlet tribe, the Crooked-Beak of Heaven and the Huxwhukw of Heaven and the Screecher of Heaven and the Ugwa’xta’yi, and many others whose names I do not know, the various birds above the clouds”. (http://www.umista.org/)
And it is this world at exactly the same time. There really is no difference.
So where are our myths? I don’t think we can find them in the world building of science fiction. Our myths are so much a part of our reality that we are unable to disentangle them enough to study them. But sometimes, if you look hard enough, you can see.
In this case the impulse that leads us to play at world creators is mythic, not the world that has been created. Just because Tolkien references the Jungian Shadow with Sauron does not make The Lord of the Rings mythic on a level like the Kwakwaka’wakw dances. Not even close.
That which leads us to create worlds, that drives us to be Apes of God, is the Myth. It is playing at Demiurge, every writer an Ialdabaoth. That is the Myth not the content.