‘Arrival’ – Denis Villenueve
“Myth has something very direct to say. Many of the stories we need now arrived perfectly on time about 5,000 years ago. Old mythologies contain not only stories about our place on the Earth, but have the Earth speaking through them, what the Islamic scholar Henry Corbin termed the mundus imaginalis – where the human imagination is open to what David Abram describes as the more-than-human world. So with myth, you are working not just with imagination but with the imaginal, what many aboriginal cultures would call the Dreamtime. In other words, as we turn ideas around in our head, we’re not just thinking but we are getting thought.”
Colleen Wallace Nungari
“It’s very hard to talk about the imaginal in conventional language. The most fitting language to address it is poetry or imagery or mythology. If the language is too psychological it reduces the mystery. It makes the mysteries containable and safe.”
‘Paterson’ – Jim Jarmusch
“Myth is a robust and ancient way of addressing a multiplicity of consciousnesses that abide in and around the Earth. What is so powerful about an uncolonised imagination, a mythic intelligence, is that it connotes but does not denote. It doesn’t tell you what it is. Its images have a radiance that reveal different things to whoever is beholding them.”
“The days of conventional hero myths are not serving us. What is being called for now culturally is a word you find often in Ancient Greece: metis. Metis is a kind of divine cunning in service to wisdom.”
“We can’t be naïve in times like this, because we are in the presence of underworld forces that will do one of two things: they will either educate us, or annihilate us. And in fairy tales whenever the movement is down – and the movement culturally is down right now – you have to get underworld smart, have underworld intelligence, underworld metis. I have a strong feeling that a lot of what wants to emerge through many ancient stories is a kind of wily, tough, ingenious and romantic force that needs to come forward at this point in time.”
S u s a n S e d d o n B o u l e t
“…in Corbin’s expression of this ancient Sufi philosophy, the material world which we take as real is in fact totally enveloped by a spiritual reality which influences (or perhaps even determines) it.
The reality of the mundus imaginalis communicates itself to human beings through images, so that the act of imagining then becomes an act of connection to it. But we’re not just talking about any old imaginings; as Corbin said:
We must be careful not to confuse it with the imagination identified by so-called modern man with “fantasy”, and which, according to him, is nothing but an outpour of “imaginings”.”
“This is an important point: Corbin differentiated between the simple everyday acts of daydreaming and fantasising (which are what we often mean when we speak about ‘imagining’) and the reality of this world of archetypes and visions. To stress this point again: the forms and figures which occupy the mundus imaginalis have a real – and the key point here is that ‘reality’ is not just restricted to the material – presence. The mundus imaginalis is the place from where all spiritual and transcendent experience derives. It is the source of synchronicities, ‘psychic’ experiences and creative insights. This world penetrates into our dreams and other visionary experiences, including the places we visit during deep meditation or imaginal journeying.”
“An awareness of the Otherworld, then, in our own native traditions (which are so potent, and yet so often neglected in favour of cosmologies from other parts of the planet) is an awareness of the power of the Earth itself. The Otherworld isn’t just a pretty place in a fairy tale: it is the source of life and inspiration. The powerful Otherworldly woman in the oldest of our stories isn’t a mere fairy mistress, or a pretty muse in a poet’s dream: she is the moral and spiritual authority of the earth, the anima mundi personified. The Otherworld is more than just a myth; the mundus imaginalis is real. As Corbin’s work suggests: the material world which we take as real is in fact totally enveloped by a spiritual reality which influences (or perhaps even determines) it.
We ignore it at our peril.”
‘Moonlight’ – Barry Jenkins
“If you look at the last five hundred years in the West, you see the steady growth of a mindset that denies the validity, even the existence, of anything that exceeds the grasp of human cognition. As a result, our environments, physical and psychic, have become increasingly human, increasingly artificial. There is a pseudo-gnostic vein in modern thinking that seeks to place humanity at the centre of the universe. This is why I believe that the recognition of radical mystery as an intrinsic quality of the real is both the most important move we could make and the most repugnant to the existing power structure. Art confronts us with a more expansive view of reality in which humans are peripheral and mystery is inescapable. This is pretty obvious when you consider a weird fiction writer like Lovecraft, but I think it’s also true for Van Gogh, Shakespeare, or Emily Dickinson.”
Vincent Van Gogh
“Artifice denotes the use of aesthetics to manipulate the emotions in a predetermined manner. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce calls it “improper art” and defines it as art that presents its content in such a way as to induce a state of attraction or repulsion. There are therefore two kinds of artifice. Examples of the first kind include porn videos, advertisements and generic pop songs. All of these are, at bottom, pornographic. The second kind includes traditional propaganda films and shock art, but also any work specifically designed to push a political or social message: slick PSAs, moral fables and concept art that does nothing but voice an artist’s opinion.”
“What Joyce calls “proper art,” on the other hand, uses the aesthetic to reveal things in their original, preconceptual “suchness.” That is, it doesn’t reduce its content to some instrumental end. In doing this, artists end up producing symbols, beacons that point to those vast regions of reality which psychoanalysts call the unconscious. In other words, art doesn’t belong to the conscious world. It belongs on the same plane as dreams, visions and synchronicity. By its nature it calls us out of the trance states that artifice instills.”
‘Knight of Cups’ – Terrence Malick
Martin Shaw –
“I notice that several times a day I go into what you could call a mild trance state. I’m not talking about ouija boards here! I’m just talking about falling under the influence of advertising, or various politically engineered neuroses that might be floating around. But I recognise I have come into a kind of enchantment. And the way I recognise it is that I feel less than grounded. I feel I’m not in the realm of imagination, I’m in the realm of fantasy. So the imaginal is not present; the Earth as a lived, breathing, thinking being is not present. What’s happening is I’m simply fretting – to use my mother’s language – I’m spinning my wheels. And so actually I think stories have a capacity to wake us up.
We are living in a time when we need symbolic intelligence, not just sign language. We are being fed signs, and signs that frighten us, and then paralyse us, and then colonise us. And imagination, through myth, wants to give you symbols to raise you up.”
‘They Live’ – John Carpenter
J.F. Martel –
“Art is in itself a form of resistance to the commodification of consciousness. Every bit of time and energy spent creating or experiencing works of art escapes the grasp of those forces that would reduce us all to a quantity or algorithm.”
‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ – Nicolas Roeg
“In a sense, asking what art should do to improve society is like asking what the heart should do to improve the health of the body. The heart can only do one thing: beat. It’s up to the body to live in such a way as to allow it to keep beating. Similarly, the only thing art can do is reveal the non-human forces that shape the world. It oxygenates society by infusing it with a more expansive reality than its preconceptions, opinions or beliefs allow for. Art is the heartbeat of a civilization. For that reason, it’s not up to artists to produce works that will change the world. It’s up to the world to organize itself in such a way that artists are able to make the art they’re called to make. While this doesn’t absolve artists of their civil responsibilities as members of society, it does mean that when they practice their art, they ought to have the freedom to be guided by powers that exceed our understanding. True works of art are powerful symbolic constructs, genuine oracles that can give society access to what’s going on below the threshold of collective consciousness. But they won’t do that if artists feel a need to impose a moral or message on the material. For the magic to happen, vision must lead the way.”
‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ – Jim Jarmusch
Links to works quoted:
The Mythos We Live By: Uncolonising Our Imagination. An interview with storyteller and mythologist Martin Shaw by Dark Mountain editor, Charlotte Du Cann.
The psychology of mythology: or, why the Otherworld is just as real as this one. Dr Sharon Blackie: writer, psychologist, mythologist from her blog – The Art of Enchantment.
Reclaiming Art: An Interview with J.F. Martel The author in an interview with Jeremy D Johnson for Reality Sandwich.
Please read Tanja Stark’s fascinating research into David Bowie’s emergence as a Jungian visionary artist.
“Jungian concepts are so inextricably woven throughout Bowie’s multi-decadal tableau of creativity that in Bowie’s synthesis of mythopoeic themes of the Unconscious with the zeitgeist of pop culture, together with his palpable struggle for meaning, catharsis and knowledge, Bowie has become a poignant contemporary representation of Jung’s ‘visionary artist’, potentially illuminating his deep resonance in popular cultural consciousness.”
César Maxit created this powerful poster of Ingrid Carillo, who is holding a picture of her disappeared relative Alma Argentina at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia. The poster is based on a photograph by Linda Panetta. Ingrid is the daughter of Adriana Bartow-Portillo who is a life-long advocate for human rights and a survivor of the war in Guatemala.
After Guatemalan security forces killed one of her brothers and disappeared six members of her family, among them her father, her 10 and 9 year old daughters, and her 18-month old sister, Adriana and her two surviving daughters fled their native country and arrived in the US in 1985.
(Photo by Gordon Walek)
She has since worked hard to educate the US public about the human rights situation in her country, and the impact of political trauma and torture on the individual, community, and society in general. She has also worked hard to raise awareness of and educate about disappearances and the plight of their surviving relatives. She is the founder of the Guatemala-based Where Are The Children?, a non-profit organization working to find out the whereabouts of the thousands of children who disappeared during the war in Guatemala.
The SOA is a military training school for Latin American security personnel. Its graduates are continually implicated in human rights violations against civilian populations across Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion and execution.
The SOA was founded in 1946, and since its opening, has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and police in courses ranging from commando tactics to military intelligence, psychological operations and counter-insurgency warfare.
In December 2000 Congress authorized the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC to replace the SOA. The renaming of the school was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation. The underlying purpose of the school remains the same: to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by training and influencing Latin American militaries.
J.F Martel describes in his book Reclaiming Art the experience some may have had in the presence of a created work, be it a piece of music, a film, dance, theater, a painting, a moment in a novel, a poem…
The experience is one where the work actually captures you where the emotional reaction is such that you believe that the world you thought you knew is somehow different now, now that you have crossed paths with this creation. That this work is actually having a conversation with you or perhaps speaking to you, acutely and individually just you. As if it were alive, as if it had meaning that only you could decipher.
Martel suggests that this experience is not necessarily caused by the intention of the creator or performer but that it is something that is breaking through, something that has a living presence. Now he describes this in conjunction with great works of art – he uses a friend’s encounter with a painting by Van Gogh as one example. I’ve had something strange and powerful happen with one of my paintings, the one featured above. In no way do I think it falls into the category of ‘great’ or even very good. I cannot look at it without critically going over everything I think is wrong with it.
Yet a couple of years ago it was in a show at the studio where I take classes regularly. I invited some new friends to attend the opening. After one couple had arrived and had meandered around looking at different paintings I discovered to my amazement that one of them had been so overcome with emotion after standing arrested in front of this piece that tears were flowing down his face. He tried to express what was happening inside to cause such a reaction but could not adequately explain only to say that it felt like the woman in this painting had pierced his heart. As he described it, for him this was a life changing experience. I was incredibly humbled that anyone could feel this from looking at one of my paintings. Later I stood in front of it hoping to get a taste of what he had experienced…Of course nothing happened. It had no effect on me whatsoever. But I looked at it as a gift and a mystery of what could happen from something that I was a part of in creating. To this day I still don’t understand what happened that evening but I accept it as something I was privileged to witness. I’m thankful for that.
There is an old phrase that goes, ‘something that takes on a life of its own.’
As Martel says in his book describing the process, “It is more than a creation: it is a creature.”
Sharon Blackie’s descent into the underworld.
She writes, “A key part of any ‘Journey’, whether it be the Hero’s Journey or the Heroine’s Journey or any other Journey you’d like to invoke, is the passage to the Underworld. The power of the transforming dark; the cauldron; the cocoon. Call it what you will; I encountered it in all its real and tangible force in the rather intimidating Oweynagat, referred to in an old religious text as ‘the hell-mouth of Ireland’.”
Read these words from another poet Alejandro Jodorowsky – with regards to the ‘poetical act’!
“I was trying not to prepare anything.
I didn’t want to prepare what I was going to say to you.
Why? Because I am searching for my inner truth, I want to know what will I say.
In two more days I will be 86 years old… it’s a lot.
Why, at 86 years of age, am I fighting to make a picture? Why?
Nothing is that important for me.
Is it so important for a person who can die one day to the other, to make a picture? Because when you are 86 years old, every morning you awake and you say “I am still alive.”
You are happy to be alive but you are maybe at the end of something.
Why make a picture? What is a picture?
Some pictures are only fun and show. It’s necessary, because in the world we are all nervous about everything that’s happening, no?
They even say we are destroying the planet. So we need to go, to see a picture, to forget ourselves.
Perhaps this is necessary, but for me a picture is not that.
For me a picture is for remembering your self, not for forgetting yourself.
But what does it mean to remember your self? What can we remember?
For me, movies are really an art.
And what is art? It is the search for your inner beauty.
That is art.
I don’t want to make a picture in order to make money.
But if money comes, I open the pocket in order to make more pictures.
But that’s not the finality. It’s not the finality to being admired by others. It’s not the finality to lie and invent things you’ve never lived.
In order to say something you need to know the thing you’re speaking of.
It needs to be an experience, what you show on the screen.
What will I show in this picture?
What are human beings, art, museums and movie theatres showing to us?
Are we those anti-heroes?
Those people who have no dignity? We are slaves? We are liars? Thieves? What are we now?
I don’t want to show that kind of person.
I don’t know how to make pictures of everyone fighting one another, to have money, to steal money
I don’t want to speak about “love” either; about this “love” that isn’t real, that’s a fairytale. Love is something great, incredible, “sublime”… I don’t know how you say “sublime” in English…
The most beautiful thing.
Marpa was a saint in Tibet and he said “Life, everything, is an illusion.”
One day his son died, his young son died and he was crying and crying and crying
and the disciples asked Marpa “Why are you crying? Your son is an illusion.”
“Yes, my son is an illusion. But he is the most beautiful illusion.”
Movies are an illusion but need to be the most beautiful illusion.
I know what it’s like to scream because one of your sons died.
It’s terrible. It’s terrible
And in that moment you ask yourself, “Why am I doing art, movies? Why?!”
and then you say
I am making movies and art in order to heal my soul.
I need to open! Open! open! myself, in order to find myself.
To remember what the human being is. The beautifulness of the human being.
The beautifulness of you. I need to show how beautiful the human being is. Now.
In Chile, in the forties, I was 24 years old… it was a fantastic moment.
The war was all over the planet, and in Chile : no war.
Because we are far and separate of the world: no television, mountains, ocean, peace!
It was so peaceful.
It was beautiful.
And then a miracle happened: Poetry came to the country.
Great poets started to write marvelous, marvelous poems; two of them have the Nobel Prize,
Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral – our father and our mother.
And then, everything was poetry.
We were living our adolescence in this situation: poetry everywhere.
And we started to search for the “poetical act.”
For how it was to live with beautifulness.
How it was to live in the mind: free! In heart : in union with world. In the sex: in full creativity.”
A deeply felt response to the ongoing crisis we face as a planet, at once personal as well as with insight into the challenges ahead for us all. To quote Kenn regarding hospice, “It speaks the language of kindness, mercy and compassion to a world glaringly bereft of all three. It generously applies a healing balm to the wounds inflicted by injustice, cruelty and war. In no way is this “giving up.” On the contrary, it is a resounding battle cry against the death machine of industrial civilization.”
When I started working with the terminally ill over 20 years ago I had not made the connection between the hospice approach to individual human suffering at the end of life and that of our embattled and dying ecosystem. I first encountered the idea of viewing the earth, and all who inhabit it, on hospice when I began reading the work of Guy Mcpherson, professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, and the writings of author Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. I now see the same patterns of misery, denial, angst, terror, empathy, alienation and actualization that define our own personal response to grief mirrored in our collective condition as a species. And I have come to believe that this model is the best response to the catastrophe of climate change, mass species extinction and the self-destructive nature of industrial civilization.
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