Transcendence of Society is hard.
As Joseph Campbell observed – “The myth is the public domain and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got a long adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.”
Joe’s commentaries on myth and Society are fascinating, but also frustrating for me. I identify strongly as Enneagram Type 6 “The Loyalist” (with a 5 wing – “The Guardian”) –
“We have named personality type Six The Loyalist because, of all the personality types, Sixes are the most loyal to their friends and to their beliefs…Sixes are also loyal to ideas, systems, and beliefs—even to the belief that all ideas or authorities should be questioned or defied. Indeed, not all Sixes go along with the “status quo”: their beliefs may be rebellious and anti-authoritarian, even revolutionary. In any case, they will typically fight for their beliefs more fiercely than they will fight for themselves, and they will defend their community or family more tenaciously than they will defend themselves.”
As a 6, Society is my foremost fixation and concern. I embrace a life philosophy that Everything that is, MUST BE – All that is not COULD NEVER BE OTHERWISE. While I have come to the conclusion that I must accept Society just as it is, my “private myth, my dream” does not “coincide with that of Society.” So most of my life has been “a long adventure in the dark forest.” While I can accept that Society is exactly as it must be, how can I love THIS god?
In Joseph Campbell’s conception of the myth cycle and the Hero’s Journey, the protagonist’s adventure in the dark forest forms the second act of the story (Initiation). But the third act (Return) includes The Crossing of the Return Threshold –
“The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world.” The goal of the return is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest and to integrate it into society.
“Many failures attest to the difficulties of this life-affirmative threshold. The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the [ups and downs] of life. Why re-enter such a world? Why [share] the experience of transcendental bliss? As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before [others]. The easy thing is to commit the whole community to the devil and retire again into [bliss].
My own experience has been as one of those “many failures.” Society, specifically in its aspect of The Hive Mind (insert placeholder for future essay), has no interest in me or the Elixir that I offer. I like to believe I have arrived at some measure of peace with this.
The frustrating problem I face with Joseph Campbell’s teachings is that myth is a refined, idealized archetype of life. While these stories can represent sacred, inspirational, and life-affirming guides, they are still stories. And stories (especially myths) are formed of pleasing structures that often bear little resemblance to real life. They are palatable expressions of otherwise less savory real life.
In real life the Elixir is often bitter (as medicine commonly is). Society prefers something more palatable. Especially now during the current Crisis of Palatability (again, subject of a future essay), there is only a tiny sliver of the demos willing to imbibe a bitter Elixir. (Not that our current civil religion of consumer materialism makes much of a difference – while we inhabit the lofty pinnacle of Stage 4 Capitalism, I believe that Society has always been inimical to the rejection of materialism).
Now with regard to Success and Failure, it is Society who arbitrates. My personal opinion is that every movement founded upon good principals is ultimately derailed by ego and greed, co opted by hijackers bent on greatness and material gain. Thus, even the Societally-anointed successes are often merely glitzy failures.
My opinion on Jesus of Nazareth’s essential message was that of an anti-materialist, anti-consumption offering of a life of freedom, kindness, and generosity. He was a peripatetic philosopher with no home or possessions offering an invitation to “The Kingdom of Heaven,” which is within us all. As An Unbearable Being of Lightness, his offering was unpalatable to Society at large. So he was killed, and his message was ultimately co opted into an institutional system that promotes the morality of poverty for the base of the pyramid and excess for the elites in those times when a zero-sum paradigm is ascendant, and blesses maximum consumption for all whenever that is considered an economic boon under a non-zero-sum regime.
From this perspective Jesus phenomenal success is actually a catastrophic failure. Note that since being appointed the staunch ally of material gain, he has adopted some other unlikely characteristics –
As Society grows larger and becomes more powerful and monolithic, and while the Hive Mind’s fixation upon “Greatness” (and its concomitant obsession with Awfulness) extends to new heights of wonder (while simultaneously plumbing new depths of horror), it has become increasingly toxic.
I set my intention to exercise indifference to Society’s increasingly resource-intensive, consumption-optimized, “monetized” offerings. I will do my utmost to disregard Society’s exquisitely visually-engineered but spiritually-vacant promotion of its products.
The purpose of this website is to share my own efforts to transcend Societally-imposed conceptions of success and failure, and to champion the beautiful achievements of others uncelebrated by the mainstream. I hail these offerings as Good, as Success. And (more than a little tongue-in-cheek) I title these gifts Mediocrity to contrast them with Society’s slavish devotion to unsustainably resource-intensive “Greatness” and pursuit of the sensation of perfection.
The side-effect of Societal transcendence is alienation and isolation. But, if I can connect with even a few others who inhabit the same reality as me, who prize kindness, generosity, simplicity, and individual creativity above all else, then I will consider that the greatest Success.
Is there anyone else inhabiting this space? This transcendental Elysium – This Kingdom of Heaven?
The Daily Stone