Myth and Theatre: Exploring Images

A series of psychological and cultural fantasies drawn from lectures given at the Myth and Theatre Festivals that brought psychologists, mythologists and people active in creative theatre together to explore the images of the Gods and how they shape our lives.

Victims of Apollo: Theological Erections in the Memory of Myth

Myth and Theatre Conferences, Villeneuve-lez-Avignon

Almost every human culture founds or grounds itself through a way of divination. A father of this festival and of archetypal psychology took Greece as his model, what scholars call the Greek Miracle (800-500 BCE) when the ruling powers were threatened by an upsurge of “repressed contents” from a previous culture and erected the Pantheon, defining all-the-gods. This Pantheon was the gift of bright Apollo and his mantike or way of divining. Its purpose was to contain the breakthrough from the violently repressed Mother-world by erecting and stabilizing a new mythic structure. The memory of this rape continues to haunt us. We can hear the scope of the problem in a poem by Charles Olson: how can we trace and arch again the necessary goddess?

Bad Blood, Straw Dogs and Paper Horses

Myth and Theatre Conference On Gossip, Ireland, October 2001

According to Plato, there are two kinds of divination. One is reveals the Unchanging Forms or Ideas; the other is the chatter of the “many-headed monster” in our body and the body politic. Plato’s truth and gossip paradigm connects to the Chinese conflict between the Confucian Sage and moral rectitude and the Wu, mediums and shamans who “gossip with the ghosts-and-spirits”. Two Warring States inventions illustrate their practice: the Straw Dog, a simulacrum that is “twisted together” in a characteristic gesture and the Paper Horses, images offered to gods, ghosts and ancestors through burning. This kind of imitation affirms that the images of this world are the spirit body of the other world.

Shadow Dancing: The Romance of South and East

Myth and Theatre Conference Myths of South and East, Granada, Holy Week 2002

I posed the question of South and East to the Classic of Change. The figure that came up was a Mountain buried in the Earth, the image of a dream-animal that activates liminal, numinous powers, the Grey Rat. When this figure changes, it shows the Grey Rat pointing at a Bright Omen hidden in the World of the Dead. This brings up Virgil, who gave us the model of the directions of North and South as two opposed landscapes. The conflict between these Hidden Lands has marked the European imagination since Virgil’s time. Virgil became a spiritual guide and his Rome became, in Dante’s words, “that Rome whereof Christ is Roman.” We encounter this when we find ourselves in the dark woods of the soul and set out in search of a regained pastoral paradise.

On Imagining Passion I: Terror, Fury and the Murderous Brothers

Myth and Theatre Conference On Fury, Granada, April 2003

Aeschylus portrays the house of Agamemnon haunted by war, murderous brothers and a cannibal meal of their children. The Furies “hold the memory of this evil”. They avenge the Mother and the darkness of the ethnos, the people, as opposed to the polis and culture. How can we turn aside this implacable wrath that poisons the earth we live on and unleashes an ever escalating round of horror, terror and revenge? Classically, the transformation comes through the goddessPeitho, whose persuasive words let Athene offer the Furies a “place free of grief and pain”.  What emerges is a vision of culture founded on the necessity of the Mothers, when we take relation to the Mother world as an ultimate ruling necessity, an image that binds us.

On Imagining Passion II: The Necessary Goddess

Myth and Theatre Conference On Fury, Granada, April 2003

Virgil gave Romans an epic mirror of their unique destiny to rule the world. An episode in his Aeneid shows it is created. It begins with appearance of the Fury Allecto, called up by the memory in the mind of Juno, Queen of the Gods of the time when “the Goddesses were turned into Venuses or beauties, the women into slaves, the entire mythology of a high and very sophisticated culture engulfed and destroyed.” Juno launches war in the worlds; Venus, Aeneas’ divine mother, persuades her husband Vulcan to produce weapons for her son: The central one is a shield “that shows all the future triumphs of the Romans”. Taking up this shield, Aeneas becomes the prophet of imperialism. The words of President Bush are a contemporary analogy: “To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil, we will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great nation.”

On Imagining Passion III: Amama or Sucking the Milk

Myth and Theatre Conference On Fury, Granada, April 2003

Looking at the classic works on the Furies lets us realize their place in the body of culture from which our identity is born. By frustrating the overt purpose of the “author,” we engage the archetypal forces at work in the text, a transformation of the fury. One of the ways is to entertain another genre of the imagination called “mock-epic” exemplified in Ariosto’s great classic, Orlando Furioso. In the deeply in-formed landscape of this poem we receive a lesson on the epic: To find our own intelligence we must turn the stories on their heads in order to withstand the impact of the hero. In Jung’s words, what we will not confront in this imagined space, we will be forced to confront as fate. This is the magic of reading with an underworld ear.

A Change of Heart: The Hidden Culture of Jealousy

Myth and Theatre Festival On JealousyNew Orleans, 2002

Jealousy is an initiating experience with great destructive and transformative power. To open this field Change offers the image of Sun, Subtle Penetration, the Lady of Fates who lays out the offerings, finds the hidden sickness, distributes the fates and couples the beings. The journey this omen suggests takes us into to the Demon Country, the Bardo Worlds of the Jealous Gods and Hungry Ghosts and the experience of what is clinically called Birth Stage 3, a life threatening state of high anxiety that is the true beginning of the struggle for survival.