New Mythologies and Rituals

Dear Paul,
Your New Mythology article is excellent, compelling, and beautiful in its profundity expressed very simply. I am very impressed with the depth you have achieved with such economy of expression. I agree that much of what makes our lives meaningful — the ways in which we understand and express ultimate truths — is found in our mythologies. I also agree that old mythologies may be wearing thin, and that is most apparent in the increasingly desperate, pathetic, and extremely fundamentalistic efforts we see all around us to cling to them and force them upon others. That is a sign of the end. I believe you are right that new forms of mythology are required to give our lives meaning in the new age. Ironically, the basis for those new forms is likely to be found in the very same archetypes that founded the old ones. It may be the new origins, forms and vehicles of the new mythologies that will provide us with surprises. Perhaps they will come from the masses using electronic devices, instead of from temple oracles. Perhaps they will come from artists, singers, dancers and poets, instead of from prophets wailing in the night. Or even more radically… perhaps they will come from the earth itself and the animals and plants that I am convinced are trying to tell us something. Or, who knows? Perhaps they will come from visitors from another world, bringing us knowledge of whole new realities and mythologies. It could happen…
As I read your essay on mythology, I thought a great deal about another primary source of meaning — ritual. During the past six years, as Robert and I have been living deep in the woods with our many animals, I have become very aware of how much of the meaning of life for animals is wrapped up in daily ritual. For our dogs and cat and koi and chickens, it only takes one meaningful experience and its repetition the next day for a new ritual to be formed, and they let us know that they expect that ritual to be fulfilled and are quite disappointed if it is not. We take our five dogs for a walk in exactly the same way, usually at the same time, every day. We put some on leashes and some run free. We make several stops along the way to do specific things. If any part of the ritual is out of place they let us know. The cat, the koi and the chickens are that way too. Animals require, demand and depend upon ritual to give their lives structure and meaning. We human beings are part of the animal kingdom. We need ritual to build our sense of reality and meaning in life. We make our coffee and tea in the same way every morning and serve it to a loved one with a kiss. We do certain tasks in a given order. We structure our months and years around major events, holidays and work requirements. All of these things are rituals, providing just as much meaning as religious rites. We rely on ritual. When our rituals are interrupted, we know that something is amiss, different or strange. We feel uneasy and adrift, and we seek to re-establish needed rituals.
Many of the old rituals are also wearing thin, because they have so much to do with destroying the world as a sustaining habitat for life, and because they no longer provide as much relevant meaning as they once did. Fortunately, like our dogs and all animals, we can make new rituals with just a few repetitions, and the more we practice them, the more meaningful they become. Just as you have intriguingly posited our need for new mythologies, I believe we also need new, healthier, more productive, creative and affirmative rituals to replace the old destructive ones and give our daily activities profound, relevant meaning. Wouldn’t it be interesting if these new mythologies and rituals were ultimately spawned by our fundamental drive for survival on a planet that we have been killing as an environment that can sustain us?

I loved your article on New Mythologies. It is so timely, appropriate and profound. I wonder if there is a candidate that would round out a trinity, including Mythology and Ritual. These Ultimate Truth concepts seem to work better in threes… Father, Son and Holy Ghost; Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; Red, Blue and Yellow, etc. And why do these things come in threes? I suppose it is because of the three realms of existence — the physical or material world, the astral realm of “Heaven,” and the causal plane of the unmanifested Infinite. Now there are some pretty big mythologies for you, and I daresay they are also deeply ingrained archetypes. Well, you’ve made me think. There is a lot more to explore here.
Love, – Kevin