The Mythic Engine Kick-Starts a New Mythology. Conversation with Mythologists Willi Paul and Shari Tarbet. + PDF
Please enjoy a better graphic in the PDF version, located for download at the end of the piece.
Introduction (email to Willi, 10/14)
“I've thought about your invitation and want to tell you why I haven't responded and often don't engage with the projects that you're creating. You and I seem to be on the same page about the type of world that we want. My husband and I manage our little place in the desert according to permaculture principles, for example. But I don't think that we can set out to create a myth. I think they emerge from corners of the cultural psyche that are not directly controlled by us... certainly we can shine light on the things that we see emerging and encourage the themes that we value but it's not something we choose and craft in my view. That is more of an ideology in my opinion. Anyway, there aren't a lot of us working social change and mythology so I wanted you to know where I'm coming from. Onward:)-“ Dr. Catherine Svehla, Mojo-maker and Creativity Catalyst at Mythic Mojo
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Conversation with Mythologists Willi Paul and Sheri Tarbet
Willi: Has storytelling changed? How?
Shari: Evolved for sure, but I don't know if I would say changed. However, these two words just might be degree. In structure I don't think storytelling has changed, but it has been enhanced. It has moved from the totally oral to the addition of drawings, books, movies, photographs, music, sculpture, ritual, all art, electronic special effects, dance. I venture to guess, though, that all these come from the same creative source. Again, I recommend reading The Artist's Way.
Willi: Can we assess old and new myths in a quantitative way?
Shari: It certainly has been done. One mythologist who did this was Levi-Strauss. I hated how he broke down, analyzed, and tried to explain myth in this way. To me, the meaning in myth was completely lost through this approach. But there are those who highly regard it.
Willi: The Mythic Engine is a cyclical tool and journey for both individuals and communities seeking universal truth(s) and change. How are mythic lessons shared with the community now?
Shari: I can't speak to all communities, but here is what I am aware of. As of now, mythic lessons are shared in the classrooms of public schools to greater and lesser degrees as well as the community college and university levels. The lesser degree would be teaching the myths themselves. The greater degree would be when the instructor, such as myself, takes it to the next level, showing students how those myths operated for the student individually and how the myths operated for the larger community from neighborhood to globe.
Of course, examples I can cite are the following; How I taught Comparative World Mythology at the high school where I taught; how I incorporate mythic lessons in the reading and speech classes I teach at Dine college. One other example that is coming about as we speak is something called the Messenger Project. I'm a consultant on this project which is a multi-media event presenting the presence of spiritual messengers (some would call angels) who help/inspire us on what is essentially our own Hero's Journey. Once it premiers, it will go on tour. At least that's the vision.
Willi: How does the cloud (re: mass digital storage) support or disrupt the Mythic Engine?
Gosh, I really don't know. I am very suspicious of the Cloud and other such storages because, as I understand them, they can be hacked and/or corrupted. Beyond that, they are mechanistic, and in Campbell's discussion of the Hero's Journey, the Problem is that of living a mechanistic life that is maintained by the community/society. I am not a Luddite, but any time information can be gathered into one place like the Cloud there is the likelihood of it being used to control rather than inform. So, following that line of argument, I would venture an answer of it disrupting the Mythic Engine.
Willi: But there is no reason to believe that will have cloud storage in the future. It depends on electricity and the electricity grid may falter and fail! The mythic engine is just as viable around a campfire as an e-whiteboard.
Willi: What do you think of the fossil fuel metaphor?!
Shari: I need an explanation here of what you mean by fossil fuel metaphor.
Willi: My use of the 2 gears is from a combustion engine.
Shari: OH! Okay. I think the machine cogs (which when I look at them I’m always reminded of Charlie Chapin’s movie about a futuristic city in which we are all just cogs in the machine) works. When I first looked at it I thought that it was an interesting way to visualize your vision.
Willi: Are we creating new archetypes and symbols or just adding paint to the existing ones?
Shari: I can see where new symbols emerge because to understand an archetype visually, the symbol has to be relevant to those viewing it for them to gain meaning. As far as archetypes go, I don't believe that new ones are created because of what archetypes are. However, let's say the possibility exists that an archetype that has always been there might not have always been evident to human beings, and that might emerge only at a time when humans are ready to 'get it'. In my view we see in our current lives the archetypes that have always been, both in the classic ways and as they apply to our situations which we think of as new.
Willi: Creative Mythology is key here. How many mythologists do you estimate are actively using Campbell’s Creative Mythology?
Shari: How many? I can't give a definite answer here. Everyone I know who has attended and/or graduated from Pacifica Graduate Institute's myth program actively uses Campbell's Creative Mythology one way or another. When one is working on one's dissertation one can choose for it to be a Creation, with a supporting paper. I considered doing this. I also know there is now a Grad school in New York that teaches what they call a practical approach to mythology which includes through creativity which is what Campbell's focus is, i.e. that it's the artists who are the modern shamans of myth. I contend that we are all artistic (re: The Artist's Way). Beyond this I can't really say. One thing I can say about How I engage creatively with myth is a belly dance show I co-produced that presented different goddesses. I wrote all the poems that accompanied the dances and was one of the performers. I was Athena.
Willi: Do you see my SCORE (see 6 pieces under workshop) and Myth Lab processes as a distraction or viable myth making processes?
SCORE: 6 Sound / Myth Designs -
Myth Lab -
Both the Myth Lab and SCORE select an artifact that is used to guide the process of new myth making. SCORE carries this work further by adding sound. Finally, all of my new myths are grounded in current issues and many new archetypes and symbols.
Shari: Okay, I looked at this and I just don’t understand it. It just doesn't resonate with me.
Willi: Please consider and respond to David Tacey, “The Sacred from Below: the ecological spirit of our time”:
Our civilization is at the edge of a new experience of the sacred. The sacred is about to be realized where it is not ‘supposed’ to be, in the realm of nature, earth, embodiment and physicality. This is a momentous change not only for the West, but insofar as a Western-style mentality has infiltrated every corner of the world, for the entire globe. The shift is a relocation of the sacred from the heavens to the earth, from the higher cosmic realm to the natural realm ‘below’.
Typically, in the three major monotheisms of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the divine has been located in the realm ‘above’, in the empyrean of starry space and distant skies. In symbolic terms, the figure of a Heavenly Father has ruled over our apprehension of the sacred for millennia. But the Sky God has expired, ‘God is dead’, and the divine effulgence appears to have fallen to earth, lighting up the world of nature with an otherworldly glow.
Shari: I agree with this. The book The Hearing Trumpet is an excellent example of this very thing. This change has been taking place, slowly for sure, for some time. Many readings from the Mythological Studies program at Pacifica deal with this very thing. I don't think the Sky God is dead though, any more than the Monotheisms and their priests believed they had killed the Goddess. First, there is a great deal of backlash against this change. We can see it in the 'conservative' politicians in our government at all levels, particularly the federal level.
When this new experience of the sacred is realized I believe that part of it will be that the Sky God will not be destroyed or expired but will find a more balanced, integrated, and proper place within this experience. I have had a vision of this. It came to me just about two years ago. In this vision were an eagle and a dove. The eagle, to me, was the masculine/solar, and the dove was the feminine/lunar. In the vision the two merged into a synthesis, into a new species of bird.
Willi: If sacred is being re-designed, why not try new methods to make new mythology?
Shari: I wouldn't use the term re-designed. I would say it's more a case of recovery. What is known of the earliest worship of the Sacred Masculine arrives in agricultural areas from either the Russian Steppes (Indo-European peoples) or from the south (Semitic peoples) who were pastoral and worshiped thunder warrior gods as pre-eminent in their pantheon. As they moved into settled areas and took over, the re-defined the local myths to support their thunder god and demonize the Sacred Feminine. Basically I don't know what new methods there could be to make new mythology because myth springs from a place that could be called spiritual, could be called the unconscious, or could be called a higher consciousness, all of which reside within each of us and is carried in both the collective unconscious and even genetic memory. On the other hand, I do see the possibility of creating new rituals.
It's new rituals, in my mind, that keeps spirituality from becoming fossilized as religion where everything becomes set, codified, and made orthodox. As someone who participates in ritual, I have learned that what is necessary at a particular time in terms of ritual isn't always the same from situation to situation, and so it is wise to keep open to the steps, objects, prayers, etc. that come to one as what would work in a particular incident. I listen to what my heart and soul tells me and know it's right; if for no other reason than the result bears it out.
Willi: Why do you suppose I put the Ouroboros on the drawing? It often symbolizes self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return - something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished.
Shari: Oh, I love that. And let's not forget its expression as Ragnarok in Norse myth. I think you answered your own question, and I saw it as symbolic of how you see the two cogs working.
Willi: Can the community be the Hero?
Shari: No. In every hero's journey myth and fairy tale I know, the Hero archetype is about the individual taking that journey in order to come to one's true, authentic self that has, in fact, been hidden by the individual's community. The Hero has to separate from the community and its standards as taught to the individual by parents in order to find her/his true self. Then one returns to the community to share this wisdom with others.
It is possible for a community to have many individuals who have taken that journey (and more than once) and returned, and are living as their authentic selves. Examples: Scrooge, Frodo, Odysseus, Rapunzel, the central character in Ceremony, Hercules, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Neo, the girl in 'V', the girl in Pirates of the Caribbean, to name a few. A community populated with such heroes would be very interesting.
Willi: I disagree. There are numerous examples in the permaculture and sustainability sectors of entire neighborhoods, food forests and towns being initiated by causes and ending up transformed through a shared journey. Daily Acts is a journey engine!
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Sheri Tarbet LinkedIn
satarbet.02 at gmail.com
New Mythologist & Transition Entrepreneur
@planetshifter @openmythsource @PermacultureXch
Mr. Paul's Online Community Groups:
Depth Psychology Alliance - New Global Mythology Group Founder -
LinkedIn - New Mythology, Permaculture and Transition Group Founder -
Common Ground Center (Santa Cruz, CA) - The Transition Movement Founder -