“Just as dreams do not conceal something already known, or express it under a disguise, but try rather to formulate an as yet unconscious fact as clearly as possible, so myths and alchemical symbols are not…allegories that hide artificial secrets. On the contrary, they seek to translate natural secrets into the language of consciousness and to declare the truth that is the common property of mankind.” “C.G. Jung. “The Philosophical Tree,” CW 13, par. 395.
Myths are sacred stories about our relationship to the gods, the origins of the world, and how people and landscapes became the way they are. Usually set outside of historical time and at a distance from the every day, their themes, characters, plots, and symbols are archetypal. In the communities in which they’re told, they’re generally considered sacred and deeply true. They validate social norms and help individuals understand how the world works and one’s place in it.
Fairy tales are also folkloric stories with archetypal themes, characters, symbols, and plots. They contain magic and are set in enchanted, otherworldly times and places. Unlike myths, they are not believed to be literally true about real people, gods, and events. Fairy tales are an especially versatile and imaginative form of story-telling that every culture uses to instruct, caution, entertain, and inspire. Some fairy tales reinforce the status quo, others incite rebellion.
Because they’re archetypal, traditional myths and fairy tales resonate with us all at some level. Beneath the highly imaginative differences between cultures—every religion has its own myths about the Sacred, while the earliest known version of Cinderella originated in China and more than 500 versions have been found—they describe the fundamental patterns of our souls.
But what is the soul? Nobody knows for sure, of course, but here’s a description from Patrick Harpur’s brilliant, The Secret Tradition of the Soul, that rings especially true:
“Imagination is reality itself…It is synonymous with soul….not only an Otherworld but the reality behind this world….[and a] whole ‘inner universe’ whose study [has become] depth psychology.” pp.33-35.
There we have it! Depth psychology is the study of our innermost, imaginative lives—the aspects of ourselves that define us as individual parts of a vast, interconnected, universal archetypal One. I find this concept mind-blowing. It means that you and I dwell in two realms: an outer biological, instinctual, physical body, and an inner imaginative, non-corporeal, psychological body that we call the soul.
What’s more, it means—and this is the most important point I want to make—that to dismiss our imagination in favor of the highly valued rational reason of Western society’s institutions, is to divide and separate us from our souls. It turns out that the only way to understand and heal ourselves is to use our imagination! And no matter how we use it, it is an essential part of our essence.
“Myths are public dreams and dreams are personal myths.” ~Joseph Campbell
Using our imagination to explore our unconscious is the key to living a meaningful life. This is why depth psychologists take dreams seriously. Why they examine the symbols and images and ask us about our associations with them. It’s also why they take myths and fairy tales seriously. And why we need to do the same. We need to know the secrets our unconscious holds to a meaning-filled life. We need insights into the forces that drive us, (we certainly don’t drive them). We need to know what our dreams and waking fantasies want us to know about our true selves.
That’s why I researched and wrote all my books, includingThe Soul’s Twins. I want to understand my myth. To acquire clearer images of the archetypes I have imagined as being associated with my feminine and masculine sides. I want to know what happens when I integrate them. Writing has helped me imagine new ways to fulfill my dreams about my the life and the legacy I want to leave.
This is why I believe using imagination to learn the underlying meaning of our stories and write our own myths in accordance with our souls’ unconscious facts is absolutely crucial for our welfare. And ultimately for the welfare of humanity. When we truly know our own myth inside and out—whether it’s about Cinderella, the motherless, unfairly treated orphan, or Persephone, who was cruelly abducted and raped by the god of the underworld, or Hephaestos, the lame Greek god of metallurgy who, although he was ridiculed, found his life’s passion in creating beautiful sculptures and works of art, or Dyonysius the Greek god of sex, passion, and wine—we begin to heal our wounds and become healthily confident in the pursuit of our hearts’ most secret dreams.
I’m still writing my myth—this blog is one manifestation of that opus. I sure don’t know how it will end. But what I do know for certain after years of striving to know the facts of my soul, is that my imaginative journey has benefitted me, my family, and my life in ways I could never have…ahem…imagined! I wish the same for you.
What dreams have you had that have been, or are are being, fulfilled? How has your imagination influenced your life’s journey so far? Where do you want to go from here?
Image credit: Art by Igor Zenin. http://www.duskyswondersite.com/human-ingenuity-category/images-plus-imagination/
Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.