It is a myth that Aleister Crowley received the inspiration of the entity, Aiwass, and that from their Cairo channeling sessions in the year 1904 came the fundamental holy text of the Thelemic religion.
And, it is true.
It is a myth that the Irish Goddess, my patron, Brighid, inspired the hearts of all her faithful poets, and continues to do so to this very day.
And, it is true.
It is a myth that the fairies–a magical, invisible race of beings who still lend aid to openhearted seekers–helped to craft this post.
And, it is true.
Throw “factual” to the wind for a moment. Suspend your need for scientific accuracy. That isn’t the discussion I’m opening up here. Talk of the literal existence of Gods, or the literal nature of spirits is not what this post is about. Literalism can be such a drag. I’m bored of everything having to be accurate in order to be true.
This post is about myth, specifically the role that myth-making has in the modern world. How do we consume myths? Who’s selling them to us, and why are they valuable? How are we using myth, or misusing it? And, how is it being used against us to keep us from creating new myths of our own?
We Were The Music Makers
Last night I had the terrible misfortune of watching a competition reality show. I was asked to participate in an online chat with an acquaintance of mine that would take place during the broadcast. I’m not a big TV watcher, in general, and I’ve never before seen a complete episode from the “hustle for fleeting fame” genre. But, I reluctantly agreed. What harm could it do me?
Let me tell you…
For the better part of 2 hours, I witnessed the most vile, embarrassing, ugly show of distaste I’d ever been privy to. And I’m not talking about the program. The episode was fine – boring and formulaic, mostly forgettable. No – the nastiness I witnessed was coming from everyone in the chat-room.
It. was. horrible.
Who dresses her?! Did you see how fat her legs were?… Uh, he should totally put his glasses back on… Time for that one to go home — she sounds like a chainsaw….
People were mean. Like, YouTube Comment Mean, but in real time.
I left the experience feeling utterly gross for having taken part. Could I please take a shower on the inside, I asked when I got home.
This morning, however, I came to understand the experience in a different light. The ugly typists were doing more than just showing humanities scuzzy underbelly, slinging insults through a computer screen. They were consuming mass-marketed, mass-produced myth, American style, and they were engaging with it in exactly the way it’s creators had intended them to.
We Were The Dreamers Of Dreams
Who are the modern myth-makers? The producers, writers, and the occasional savvy celebrity, herself, who create the shows, the ad campaigns, the centerfolds sold for our consumption. Myths are made by crafty marketers; tabloid bards. And we can’t get enough of it.
Our culture feasts on competition reality shows — and all entertainment media for that matter — because we have a myth deficiency in our spiritual diet.
It is an entertainment-industry created myth that the contestants of these reality TV competitions will go on to do brilliant things with their lives; that they will become celebrated, or that their innate gifts will one day become widely seen and fully appreciated. This myth is dangled in front of every singer, dancer, actor, comedian, or any other artist in the audience.
And this myth is neither accurate nor true.
The contestants may experience either a brief moment of celebrity worship, or widespread disdain. Either way, the victors and the losers will become the newest canvas for our individual and cultural projections of hope, desire, fear of success and fear of failure. Real as they may be in the flesh, they will be transformed into symbols; heroes, villains, deities.
This is the truth behind the myth.
Celebrities Make Lousy Gods And Are Rarely Heroes
We need symbols. They are important. When we hold up a figure from a myth in our imagination – when we examine it, celebrate it, critique it, seek to understand it’s relevance – we engage in a deeply human act. We re-enchant the ordinary world by fusing it with that of the mythological. This act of imaginative transformation makes for a rich, fulfilling, spiritual life.
The rub comes when the object of our attention is not a mythological deity, or a hero of old, or a created character of the imagination; but rather a flesh-and-blood person. Or, more accurately, a two dimensional version of one. This is where I think we make a mistake.
Turning an ordinary person into the stuff of myth – in real time, in front of us, behind the TV screen – requires us to ignore something essential about her; mainly, her humanity. Or, if we don’t ignore it, we participate in it’s distortion.
Be Your Own Myth-Maker
Consuming mass-marketed myth is not only a disservice to the human beings on the other side of the channel-changer; it also disempowers us from becoming our own myth-makers. The format subjugates our imagination and sets the standards for our desires and aspirations. It tells us what we want, who we should be, and then it politely reminds us that we are neither of those things. [Insert commercial here]
Honestly, I think we deserve better than that.
Our imagination – our own, personal myth-making machine – is in need of exercising. Its become atrophied from lack of use. I’ve said it before, and I believe it even more strongly now – your imagination is your greatest tool for living a magical life.
So I decline from participating in this cultural practice of myth-consumption; of celebrity worship followed by celebrity bashing. I’d rather worship an ancient Celtic Goddess, or an invisible magical creature, or the fire burning on my altar candle than to consume a manufactured myth, crafted to make me feel inferior; a myth that is simply untrue.
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