Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Flexing Our Mythos Muscles September 14, 2012

The imaginative and symbolic way I perceive dreams and ordinary life is somewhat different from the way we are normally taught to think in school. I assure you this is not just sloppy thinking, but a conscious choice I’ve made to use more of my brain’s potential.

Plato was the first great thinker in Western history to define the two modes of thinking that are the specialties of the two hemispheres of the brain. He called them logos and mimesis. Following the lead of psychologist Gisela Labouvie-Vief I call the latter mythos. It is generally accepted that while there is some overlap, the left hemisphere of the brain is primarily oriented to logos and the right, to mythos.

Mythos thinking is symbolic, metaphoric, instinctive, imaginative, visual, intuitive, emotional, and subjective. Receptive to chaos, mystery, newness, and change, mythos is a compass that points us to the eternal and the universal. Mythos is the mother of original thinking, self-discovery, spiritual growth, and personal meaning. It is the basis for all forms of creative expression and every form of inner work that leads to self-knowledge.

Although Plato loved mimesis/mythos and was himself very imaginative, inner-directed and spiritually oriented, he considered reason to be a more advanced and mature form of knowing. He preferred logos to mythos for two reasons: because of mythos’s appeal to the emotions — which, of course, can be dangerous and uncontrollable when they are not made conscious — and because he thought logos was fostered by written language, which he considered an advancement and refinement over oral language. Following Plato’s example, the writer of the Gospel of John proposed that logos is cosmic reason and the self-revealing thought and will of God.

Plato passed this bias on to Aristotle, Aristotle passed it on to us. Due to the enormous influence of these men on Western philosophical thought, today virtually everyone but writers, artists and mystics vastly underrates the potential of one half of our brains. I find it very bizarre that we still haven’t overcome this prejudice against inherent qualities of our own minds! Certainly there was a time in the history of our species when it was essential to hone our left-hemisphere qualities if we were to continue to evolve beyond our earlier, right-brained orientation, but we’ve had this bias for the past 5,000 years now, and expanding our consciousness has never been more crucial.

Why? Because we’re killing ourselves, each other, and our beloved planet. In his book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, vascular surgeon Leonard Shlain writes about the brain’s role in the evolution of our species. His research suggests that historically there has been a cause-and-effect relationship between an obsessive left-hemisphere orientation and the ascendency of the separate, abstract, male Sky God, the dominator mode of governance, and the repression of women and minorities. If Shlain is correct, the root cause of many of the world’s current problems is the intolerance the left hemisphere of our brains has for right-brained otherness!

In short, we’ve been projecting our fear and hatred of vital parts of ourselves onto others and now we’re suffering the consequences. Isn’t it time we started flexing our mythos muscles?

You can find more on this topic in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

The Marriage of Science and Religion May 16, 2010

Plato and Aristotle’s identification of the two ways of thinking I call logos and mythos was based on the human tendency to perceive and classify all phenomena into pairs of opposites. Since ancient times, the supreme pair of opposites under which we have categorized all others has been the metaphors of masculine and feminine.  When used as metaphors, these terms are not about gender or sexuality, but ways of helping us categorize related ideas.

When Jung set out to better understand the psyche he used the same metaphors to express the findings of his research. One of his major conclusions was that the psyche is a union of conscious (masculine) and unconscious (feminine). An even more ground-breaking discovery was the fundamental archetype composed of the union of the masculine and feminine. He called this archetype of wholeness the Self, with a capital S to denote its difference from the ego self, and defined it as our God-image.

Like Plato, Jung also thought of the masculine principle as logos, but he named the feminine principle Eros, after the Greek god of love. For him, logos represented all the spiritual phenomena of life (including mental discrimination, judgment, and insight), and Eros symbolized all physical phenomena, i.e. the things we mean by the term soul, including matter and our physical bodies with their instincts, emotions, and capacity to relate. While readily admitting that these concepts cannot be defined accurately or exhaustively, Jung believed they had great practical value for clarifying a field of experience that is particularly difficult to define.

One stumbling block for some Jungians is the use of the name of a masculine Greek God (Eros) for the feminine principle! This is why I prefer the term mythos, which is non-gender specific. A related issue is that associating “spiritual” phenomena with the masculine principle removes the feminine from the spiritual playing field. Today, however, science has dramatically refined these concepts with new research in brain-lateralization.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Leonard Shlain notes that the nonverbal “feminine” right hemisphere of the brain integrates feelings, recognizes images, and expresses being. More often than the word-oriented “masculine” left hemisphere it generates feeling-states like love, humor, or aesthetic appreciation, all of which are non-logical. These feeling-states are authentic experiences that are verified beyond debate by an internal voice. Among other things, they allow us to have faith in God.

In sum, associated with all that is mysterious, unconscious, felt, organic, imaginative, and personally compelling, mythos is the non-verbal way we experience the truths of spirit and soul. Moreover, using mythos to explore the enigmas of the outer and inner universes brings enormous psychological and spiritual advances because it is inherently integrating and self-validating. And it is the birthright of every brain, male and female alike.

Increasingly over the past five thousand years, we have exalted logos over mythos, repressing our “feminine” ways of thinking and imagining God in left-hemisphere ways.  But we are living in extraordinary times. With the marriage of science and religion we are unveiling our unconscious and undeveloped feminine dimensions and integrating the wisdom of Sophia, God’s feminine side.

 

 
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