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Archives 2002:
Vol. 1, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Hope for the Future
Six Part Series on Science and Religion
First Three Parts of the Series on Leadership
Archives 2003:
Vol. 2, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Series on Leadership continued
Avoiding Dictatorship in a Free Society

Art and Politics
Living the Good Life
Teaching Teens
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Archives 2004:
Vol. 3, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Seven Part Series on Global Consciousness
Is "Liberal" a Dirty Word?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

Archives 2005:
Vol. 4, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Standing up for Humanity
Unity in Diversity

Thought and Imagination
Imagination and Healing
Lessons of Katrina
Intelligent Design or Evolution

Archives 2006:
Vol. 5, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Human Programming and Conflict
Non-Violent Political Change
Sustainable Development
Legalizing Torture
Living Without an Enemy
"Fast Food" is really "Slow Food"


Featured Articles about Responsibility, the Future and Consciousness:

Hope for the Future
Series on Leadership
Series on Global Consciousness
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Conflict, Harmony and Integrity
Human Programming and Conflict
Non-violent Political Change
Living Without an Enemy
Protecting Children: Words and Deeds




May, 2009
Vol. 8, Number 5

This Month's Article

A Contemporary Worldview and
the Conflict of Mythologies

Myth fulfills in primitive culture an indispensable function: it expresses, enhances and codifies belief; it safeguards and enforces morality; it vouches for the efficiency of ritual and contains practical rules for the guidance of man. Myth is thus a vital ingredient of human civilization; it is not an idle tale, but a hard-worked active force; it is not an intellectual explanation or an artistic imagery, but a pragmatic charter of primitive faith and moral wisdom. . . .

Bronislaw Malinowski. Myth in Primitive Psychology. 1926

For the purposes of this article “myth” does not mean “false,” as in a widely held misconception not based on fact. Rather, “myth” is used as something basic to human psychology that shapes a person’s worldview and sense of identity. It is as Joseph Campbell or Mircea Eliade would describe as something alive and vital, and central to culture and civilization. Through the power of myths, people learn the norms of their society and how to act. Campbell and Eliade would say that myths reflect a sacred history for a people while the psychoanalyst Carl Jung would say they are based on universal archetypes residing in the human sub-conscious. In both characterizations they are the underlying spiritual forces and images shaping human actions.

When viewing contemporary political behavior as a social expression of worldviews based on underlying psychological or religious concepts, one may view the battles over ideology, religion or the conflicts of political partisanship as competing myths. The passion such competition generates is indicative of how strongly different myths define a people’s concept of themselves, their responsibilities, and their moral obligations.

The origin of myths and their influence on a people’s worldview is not simply religious, but is the expression of how perfected beings would act in different historical eras and in different geographical and cultural settings, with different demands and requirements for human survival. Even assuming that underlying archetypes may not change, the theater in which they act may do so. Also, as people’s awareness, psychology and intelligence evolve, their sensitivity, understanding and interpretation of archetypes may change as they adapt to new circumstances, and may become more refined or take on different modes of expression.

Many ideologies or factors that motivate political partisanship at present are based on worldviews that have not adapted to the contemporary needs of civilization, or to the perceptions, tools and behaviors that have evolved with current technology, economy, and science. In the realm of myth, “science,” being how human beings adapt and solve the problems of material and social life, is not incompatible with basic archetypes of religious heroes (ie. “perfected beings”). Similarly, “morality” is not incompatible with intelligent, pragmatic behavior.

Today’s political cultures where terms such as “globalization,” “sustainable development,” “social networking,” “human rights,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “global warming” mix with terms like “religious fundamentalism,” “liberal,” “progressive,” and “conservative,” seem like they are worlds away from the deeply psychological and mythic forces that shaped societies that depended directly on nature to survive. Nevertheless, all those terms reflect the various ways humans respond to the social and natural world that determines contemporary life and shapes modern political identity.

While what people conceive of as the limits of their territory and of those people that constitute their “community” has definitely expanded, human behavior is still largely a function of consciousness. Consciousness is the awareness of one’s place within the whole of what makes one’s life possible. Often what seem like irreconcilable polar opposites are in effect the playing out of different worldviews shaped by the concern for security and identity within the same environmental circumstances. Myths play a large role in people’s self-concept and fundamental sense of right and wrong. Modern peoples can be seen as equally prone to emulating their particular “heroes” as were primitive peoples.

The fundamental core of political behavior grows from essentially a worldview that is either positive or negative, optimistic or pessimistic. The worldview that creates optimism is empowering to the individual and group, while that which is pessimistic stresses protection of the individual and group. The mythic archetypes that are called into play to substantiate the positive and negative worldviews constitute the actors in the dramas of political theater. Domestic and international politics viewed as theater reveals the actors as characters playing predictable roles. The script is the same as eternal legends and tales, but in a new setting.

If common ground ever emerges from the conflict of different worldviews, humanity will paradoxically experience the richness of human diversity. It is not in the details of the myth that make human experience, but rather in the quality of the myth. Does the myth inspire optimism or pessimism? If it inspires optimism human expression and behavior will be expansive, generous, and geared to the common good. If it is pessimistic, it will be fearful, protective, and geared to the security of the individual or the individual’s group. All the “-isms” of political philosophies can be simplified by these two criteria: are they derived from an optimistic or a pessimistic view of humans and human society?

The interaction of evolving human consciousness and evolving technological tools with the current challenges of global needs is tending to produce a sense of optimism in spite of real threats to survival. The new consciousness is the recognition that the behavior based on a fearful worldview is anti-survival in spite of producing protective instincts. It may be seen that the archetype of the journey to death is the source of the fearful worldviews, while the archetype of the journey to life is the source of optimistic worldviews. This recognition is simply that in the subconscious human myth, it is the archetype of the hero that is victorious over obstacles and conquers death.

Thus, the worldview based on fear and pessimism is outdated and unfit for the future, and what’s more, it is the fabric of falsehood. A major function of the all the current crises in the unfolding drama of the human myth is to reveal the falsehood of life and politics based on fear. The irony and tragedy is exemplified by the extreme measure of using torture to “protect” when the reality is that it does the opposite. Ghandi demonstrated that for real progress and for the protection of truth, it is only the hero’s journey of integrity and adherence to core moral values that produce results that prove the truth of one’s cause.

>>For a concise explanation of the evolution of worldviews read the following outline: Origins of Political Theory: the Role of a People’s Worldview

© 2009 Richard V. Sidy

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Archives 2005
Volumn 4
January: "Standing up for Humanity"
February: "The Wake of Disaster" – a poem
March: "Unity in Diversity
April: "Life is Calling"
May: "Entertainment" – a poem
June: "Thought and Imagination" part 1
July: "Thought and Imagination" part 2
August: "Imagination and Healing"
September: "Malice or Neglect? – Lessons of Katrina"
October: "Protecting Children"
November: "Intelligent Design or Evolution?"
December: "Building with one hand, destroying with the other"
Archives 2006
Volumn 5

January: "Conflict, Harmony, and Integrity"
February: "Satyagraha or Soul-force and Political Change"
March: "I Know I'm Not Alone - Wisdom of Michael Franti"
April: "Human Programming and Conflict Part I"
May: "Human Programming and Conflict Part II"
June: "Soccer Diplomacy"
July: "Sustainable Development is Nature's Way
August: "Parallel Universes"
September: "The News is not New"
October: "Legalizing Torture"
November: "Living Without an Enemy"
December: "Fast Food is really Slow Food"

Archives 2007
Volumn 6

January: "State of Fear"
February: Criminal Justice - "The Powerful Over the Weak"
March: "Culture Shock: The Good Life and Survival"
April: "March Madness"
May: "No Child Left Behind" Leaves Many Teachers Behind
June: "Personal Ecology"
July: Criminal Justice - "The Ethic of Custodianship"
August: "Exploring the Mind - part 1"
September: "Exploring the Mind - part 2: The Poetic Mind
October: "How Much Pain Can We Stand?"
November: "When Languages Disappear"
December: "Is it Enough to be Tolerant?"

Archives 2008
Volumn 7

January: "Beyond Ideology: Politics of the Future "
February: "Beyond the Bush Years"
March: "The Imaginary Economy - Part I
April: "The Imaginary Economy - Part II
May: Questions from Prison
June: "iGods and Connectivity"
July: "Energy Independence"
August: "Tribalism and the 2008 Elections
September: "Guilt, Shame and U.S. Justice"
October: "Have We Been Willing Slaves?"
November: "Are We Ready for the Future?"
December: "Are we done learning from pain?"

Archives 2009
Volumn 8

January: "Awakening"
February: "When Sacrifice is no Sacrifice"
March: "The Good New Days"
April: "The Power of Metaphor"
May: "The Conflict of Mythologies"
June: "The Time is Right"
July: "The New Anarchy"
August: "The Art of Living"
September: "Outrage"
October: "Are Women Becoming More Unhappy?

November: "Effect of the manufacturing culture on the American Psyche"
December: Who are the Real Game Changers?

Archives 2010
Volumn 9

January: The Music of Place
February: Earthquakes and Other Awakenings
March: Sense of Place, Sense of Self, Sense of Humanity
April: Why Do People Serve?
May: Decentralizing Food and Energy
June: Beyond Reading and Writing — Ecological literacy
July: Organization or Organism?
August: Fear and Cynicism = “Inter-fear-ance”
September: Are we afraid of our "Better Angels?"
October: Choosing Our Battles
November: Meeting the Need
December: A Living Canvas

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