My reaction when I first laid eyes upon this topic of Mythopoesis was somewhat confused. I sensed that the feeling was mutual with other students until we walked into Glen Spoors’ entertaining lecture on this very topic.
Mythopoesis identifies a genre and approach towards creativity that looks into myth making, creative psyche, shadow self, active imagination, individuation and such like. To be honest the word ‘ Mythopoesis’ doesn’t seem to be clearly defined by any one person and wasn’t completely clear in the lecture. The lecture seemed more of a personal insight into a shadow life and some parts suggested a slight personal attack towards new age belief systems.
The genre Mythopoesis evolved from a few ways of delving into the unconscious imagination.
Aborigines first associated with it as the ‘Dreamtime’. William Blake called it ‘Divine Imagination’, Plato knew it as the realm of ‘Ideal Archetypes’, C G Jung called it a ‘Collective Symbolic Unconscious or Active Imagination’ and a more contemporary postmodern artist Alex Grey associates it with ‘Visionary Art’.
Alex Grey explains this process through his visual and written art. For example,
The Seer- Alex Grey
‘… The seer is the soul of the artist, magus through ages untold, Transmitting the lead of the matter into bullets of spiritual gold. The ego picks up the weapon of art, childlike, it plays with the trigger Blowing the head off its contracted self.Awareness is suddenly bigger by slaying the ego and stunning the chatter of thoughts as they rise, Great art shuts out distractions Delighting the heart through the eyes…’
Alex Grey’s art beautifully reflects what Visionary art is.
Well what is Visionary Art. Erick Davis defines Visionary Art as art that resonates with visionary experiences, those undeniably powerful eruptions of numerous and multidimensional perception that suggest other orders of reality.
C G Jung breaks it down into parts of a Individuation/ Active Imagination process. A process of psychological integration. First becoming aware of oneself and discovering one’s inner self through a single method that yet expressed through many different forms.
A collective unconscious of beings who are vast reservoir of archetypes. Archetypes are like a ‘blueprint for ideal types of behaviour’. These blueprints were transmitted from generation to generation first starting with Plato. Archetypes were examples of types of behaviours that were seen as a model for ourselves. Teaching us to act certain ways because we were unsure how to act ourselves. Most of the archetypes were portrayed as mythical characters this is where it fits into ‘myth’-o-poesis. An imaginary mythical character that gets to experience something that we only ever dream of experiencing.
The patterns and behaviours are emulated into story telling and best fits into the art form of cinema for our times. These archetypes always have two sides the ideal sides and the shadow sides. Kind of like ourselves, our feminine and masculine sides. It’s about balancing opposites.
In the readings it mentions that a central part of individuation and psychic growth is becoming conscious of these oppositions and then beginning to reconcile or balance them.
The ‘shadow’ self is the unconscious self. It’s considered dark and negative, a repressed side of ourselves. If not dealt with in positive ways, this shadow part of ourselves can project negatively onto others. If we learn to embrace this darker part of ourselves into our personalities it creates an inner awareness and maturity for the soul. It’s self-help self-realization, it cannot be stimulated by something external, but it grows from the inside.
Ways of going about this is through forms of art. This is also considered art therapy and this is something that Alex Grey promotes through his own work.
Through the external world in forms of painting, drawing, dancing etc the individual taps into the unconscious mind full of deep-seated emotions, feelings, visions and intentions. Alex Grey wrote that, ‘The visionary artist creatively expresses her or his personal glimpses of the Divine Imagination.’
The Jungian concept of Anima and Animus, Masculine and feminine, suggests the balancing and recoiling of opposites, experiencing opposite gender aspects.
This is all apart of the maturing process of our psyche. Maturing our psyche but going through a process of childlike play to get there.
Jung 1921, par.93
‘ Every good idea and all creative work are the offspring of the imagination, and have their source in what one is pleased to call infantile fantasy. Not the artist alone, but every creative individual whatsoever owes all that is greatest in his fantasy. The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as much it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.‘
I don’t believe that it’s just about play of the imagination that lifts you up to that next creative level. But more the openness to self exploration and balancing many areas of life. It’s not just about imagining awesome stuff, its more prolific than that, it can become a spiritual journey deeply connected to all areas of life and creativity.
I still feel that Mythopoesis is not that easy to define. Not one person can say it’s this way or the highway, it really is down to personal experience an inward out journey of creativity. I guess that’s why I’m looking forward to experiencing it myself over the coming years. I’ve had hints into my own unconscious creativity when I’m happy to push my creative boundaries.
Recently, while viewing a collection of my work within the same space, I unconsciously created a sense of order within my work and didn’t notice this pattern till later on. It’s not something I usually focus on within my past works. I’ve also noticed that when I’m in a state of intense stress or tiredness I continually doodle repeditive shapes and faces, my hands don’t usually stop and it sends me into a zen like state. Another creative stage in my life involved an intense interest in the mythological mermaid. Yes, it may just have been a teen craze, yet a few of the mermaid drawings were heavily drawn in dark led and charcoal and started to represent a more rebellious side.
Maybe a deeper study into Jung’s interpretation of symbols within dreams and unconscious may help me to have a better insight.
In more recent times my intentions for art are more for positive growth purposes so hopefully only good will come. And my interest in the art therapy theories and theories of will continue to inspire me just like Alex Grey.
Art is a language. I’m in the process of learning that language.
I had a hell of a time trying to some up this topic I guess that’s why the lectures weren’t clear about it as well, but I will leave you readers with some more food for thought.
Alex Grey shares a brief insight into the process of his own creative path. Enjoy
Jung, C. (1997). Jung on active imagination (pp. 1-17, 28-33). (Ed. Joan Chodorow). London: Routledge.
OShaugnessy, M. Stadler, J. (2002). Carl Jung. Media and Society: An introduction (pp. 176-184). Victoria: Oxford University Press.