"Einstein was asked what he thought the most important question was that a human being needed to answer. His reply was, ‘Is the universe a friendly place or not?’ And indeed, our answer to that question is the cornerstone on which many of our values and beliefs inevitably rest. If we believe that the universe is unfriendly and that our very souls are in danger, peace will be elusive at best."
Joan Borysenko. “Fire in the Soul. A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism.” Warner Books, 1993.
Wisdom traditions suggest that we pay very close attention to our myths. Some of our personal & collective myths are far wiser, & serve us far better, than others. (Even when our personal / collective myth makes us miserable, 'it's human nature' to stick to it tenaciously - much like abused people are very reluctant to abandon toxic relationships.)
“Why mythology? Because the right side of the neocortex, the higher brain, operates on stories and myths, not facts. The success of TV series like Game of Thrones, films like The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and the Harry Potter books attest to our fascination with fantasy and myth. At the same time we tend to underestimate the power of myths, dismissing them as charming fables or entertaining tales. But as the scholar Joseph Campbell made clear, myths aren’t just plotlines for comic books and summer blockbuster movies. They affect us to a far greater degree and at a far deeper level than we realize. From a very young age, we fall under the spell of powerful myths that influence the way we perceive the world and, consequently, the choices we make every day.
Mythologies represent the beliefs and values of particular groups or cultures. To a large extent, the guiding myths of the West differ from those in other parts of the world. Certain myths, however, seem to be universal, written on the collective human psyche and conveying archetypal energies that crosscut time and geography. The most enduring myths involve ordinary people embarking on heroic quests, often against their will, and overcoming apparently insurmountable obstacles to perform extraordinary deeds.
The values and beliefs contained in myths are so strong that once you find your personal guiding myth, you feel compelled to change your life to conform to it. Change the myth and your values and beliefs change – and the facts of your life change accordingly.
But you can only change your personal myth after you’ve upgraded your brain, because a broken brain automatically runs the old software, leaving you at the mercy of the four ancient programs of the limbic brain: fighting, fleeing, feeding, and fornicating. When we’re caught up in aggression, fear, or greed – or its opposite, scarcity – we’re unable to adopt new values and beliefs, even in the face of a serious crisis. Unconscious programming overrides our best intentions.
At this point in our history, it’s pretty clear that the human species needs to be more collaborative, creative, and cooperative – qualities that are aspects of the archetypal mother figure. To bring balance back into our relationship with Mother Earth and with one another, we need to replace the masculine mythology of domination, conquest, and hierarchical power. And on a personal level, we need to overcome the self-focused, power-hungry, battle-fixated limbic mind-set.
Updating your personal mythology means abandoning the seductive yet limiting beliefs that affect us collectively and create for each of us a living hell. Changing your personal myths requires interacting with familiar stories in new ways so that you can use those energies more wisely and efficiently. You could revise how you engage with your inner warrior, for example, by giving up violence toward yourself and others, and reserving your adversarial energy for only the most essential battles and the athletic field.
We can become warriors who fight our own demons instead of looking for people to demonize and dominate. We can wage holy war on the infidel within – or even chuck the warrior energy altogether and see what our inner infidel has to teach us. In similar fashion, we could work with the pouting inner child who always wants things our way, or the jealous Aphrodite who demands that all attention and adoration be focused on us.”
Alberto Villoldo. “One Spirit Medicine. Ancient Ways to Ultimate Wellness.” Hay House Inc., 2015.