Mysterium Tremendum

 

 

The following post comes from mythandmore.com which is the blog written by Margo Meck. I’m not going to comment on it at this time. I leave it at your doorstep to mull over. See my comments next post.

Posted September 14, 2013 in Musings & Mythologues

The word “numinous” was coined by Rudolf Otto from the Latin numen, meaning a god, cognate with the verb nuere, to nod or beckon, indicating divine approval.  This word, or its noun, the “numinosum,” refers to any phenomenon experienced as a manifestation of tremendous power felt to be objective and outside the self.  It is a crucial element of religious experience.  For Otto, the numinosum is non-rational and irreducible; it cannot be defined, only evoked and experienced.

According to Lionel Corbett, the numinous grips or stirs the soul.  The numinous produces a kind of holy terror, awe or dread which Otto describes as a feeling of the ‘mysterium tremendum.’ It can also erupt in the modern person as the experience of the uncanny or the supernatural.  Such awe may be overwhelming or it may be gentle as the still small voice.  The uncanny is not a function of intensity but rather of a specific quality. [see The Religious Function of the Psyche by Lionel Corbett for a detailed discussion on this.]

I experience the redwoods of northern California as a portal into the numinous.  The magnificence of these sentinels  “stirs my soul.”  I stand in awe of their grandeur.  There is something “uncanny” about them.  For me, these expressions of nature, I experience as supernatural.  There is something larger at work here; something that cannot be defined; only experienced.

According to Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and PsychepastedGraphic.png the numinous is also defined as something that suddenly confronts human awareness with an unexpected dimension of reality, something that is experienced as “Wholly Other” than the mundane sphere, that utterly transcends and subverts the everyday world of conventional experience, and that disrupts the very ground of one’s being as it was previously construed.  Jung’s notion of synchronicity can be recognized as the inexplicable coincidence that carries a numinous charge.

For me, myths are not necessarily numinous in and of themselves; just as the menu is not the meal, the map is not the landscape, and the road sign is not the way, etc.  What myths do is to alert us to the possibility of the numinous.  They help us recognize when we are in the grips of the mysterium tremendum.  The numinous can be beatific like Dante’s vision of Beatrice.  It can also hold a terror as when a demon visits us in a dream and we awaken breathing heavily in a cold sweat.  And, the numinous can also be experienced gently as the still small voice. Regardless of the form, the soul is deeply stirred.

My attraction to myth is many layered.  One of these layers is simply because myths are great stories.  Also, they typically contain pearls of wisdom.  They are mirrors reflecting the human condition.  And, I could go on.  However, for the purposes of this commentary, let me say that I am attracted to myths because they are metaphors for life that cannot really be explained directly.

Myths are keys opening the door beyond which lies the numinous.

Margo Meck is a mythologist, writer, story consultant, and speaker. She received her Ph.D. in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA. in 2007. She has lectured on various myth related subjects such as Personal Mythology and the Hero’s Journey.

Joseph Campbell says: “It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.”

What implications do you think this has for underlying themes in human culture?

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Don’t Miss My Developing Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy

I refer to it as a work of magical realism. It is a series with a strong mythological element and a real world setting in this time when women are being empowered at last. It is a time of wonder and awakening for all of humankind.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power – Book 1

(Available now in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.) 

Avery had dedicated her life to work for the future of third world women. Her life was enhanced when she met the man who became the love of her life. They could not know that they shared a destiny and that a mission set long ago by our Earth Goddess was to be revealed before them.

Gaia’s Majesty-Challenge: The Chosen Rise – Book 2

(Available now in Pre-Order and goes on sale April 29 on Amazon)

These people, called Tethyans, live in cities in the sea but can morph into fully human form and come to land to form families. They join with the warrior women called the Andromeda to fight against the forces working to impair the future of humankind. Avery has found her birth name of Chantia and she and Beck find there is soon to be a child of seeming great import just as the world falls into terrible strife with millions already dead. 

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Vision -Searching Truth and the Future

 

Choices

Whether we want it or not we are always confronted with choices. There may be bold steps but there is always the choice to do nothing. The last alternative is not one I relish. 

When it comes to choices it often is a matter of what is presented to us and they may not be ones we want. My preference is to insure that we have options we would like to have. And my personality type inevitably leads me to searching for possibilities. The down side is that we can construct things we don’t need to be choosing and they may not be a good ideas. But in the end I always want to search what might be.

The Obvious and the Not Obvious

Clarity of the present scene of our lives may be a good place to begin to construct vision. The real palate set before us may offer everything we may want but to simply choose from that array leaves us open to the unexpected and what may materialize.

Another alternative for us is to look back and see if there are harbingers or my favorite possibilities which may introduce us to what may be or will be coming. Granted that may lead us to a futile search if we are too insistent or perhaps unwilling to face an insistent reality.

Dreams or Possibilities 

Dreams may be one place we search for the future but in dreams we may construct something which is not attainable or even desirable or may actualize our dreams. Whatever we choose there are a number of ways to use them. As I’ve said, when I began to construct the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I thought it was just one book and learned otherwise. I reached back into mythology and melded it with the movement to empower women. The first was an intriguing story told across the world and the other is an intriguing reality occurring across the world.

Not Accepting the Obvious

When we embark on this kind of investigation we cannot always know what we will conclude or find. But, in many ways that is what life is fundamentally like. But as I moved forward in the writing I found I was not completely in charge. Characters were insistent, I discovered some of what I thought were my themes were something other than what I thought they were.

In the End

But in the end, if it ever is ending, I had to conclude that I was scanning possibilities and some of them seemed to suggest what might truly be our future. The reader of course makes their own contribution and the partnership of reader and writer has its own set of possibilities. In the end this is what life is about. It involves struggle and we can’t assume we know where we will be led. What a gift!

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Fiction Writing Process I – The Birth and Shaping of Fiction

Various Sources and Resources

The writing process is fascinating. There is conventional wisdom about how to do it, but there is considerable variation among those of us who write fiction. Nothing is universal. Clearly we are using our personal resources, but certainly we all need editors and a proofreader at the end. Of course there is the matter of inspiration. For me, I found some surprises. And those surprises came at many levels. First I noticed that I reached a point in the development of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy when I realized that I had been working on it, in what I call the back of my brain, for decades. 

Sources of Inspiration

And I found the source of inspiration was anything but confined. Over my life I’ve worked in a number of environments from medical establishments, helping people with personal conflicts, assisting in vocational choices and addressing inner city poverty. In the latter, our staff had to do battle with entrenched interests among the higher ups. While they were not despoiling the earth, they were working against the development of a rich new way to deliver services. Such opposition can be seen at all levels of our lives and in our societies.

Many Changes and Sources   

And at the time women were becoming more and more central and influential. My mentor was an extraordinarily bright black women. My feminist orientation was born in those days. Later I moved on to dealing with the crisis management of stepfamilies in formation. And through it all I was getting deep into people’s personal lives in psychotherapy and some of it was simply life management. 

From my educational background I had acquired a fascination with mythology and cultural processes. All of these elements coalesced in causing me to watch the world stage and political intrigue as our social life on this planet developed and we descended into environmental and social crises. 

And more recently women rising to power has become more central as they gained control over their fertility and cultural events defined a need for new roles. I won’t try to detail the process because it is complex and is well covered elsewhere. But we can see their rise worldwide and the benefits attached are truly stunning.

Melding Sources and Themes

When I put all these components together a story was taking shape in my brain. It was attuned to feminism, the reality of growing conflicts and portrayed the need for stewardship of all kinds. And, of course, it had to have a mythological context which enhanced its creative shape.

Shaping the Story

At some point the question becomes how to shape the story. The author can simply start writing, can make notes and can also organize. My wife writes screenplays and in her work I saw something fascinating in the form of Dara Marks’ (see www.DaraMarks.com) Transformational Arc. I recognized it immediately. It is apparent at the movies. Specific elements are built including high points and culminations such as “as bad as it gets” which is the crisis that generally comes about three quarters of the way through a movie. The system does a wonderful job of shaping stories so they thrive rather than plod. I also used Carl Jung’s personality typology to help guide me in developing and joining characters. In fact, I present this tool in my book Creating Characters and Plots which is available as an ebook on Amazon.

But there was also the matter of containment when inspiration was truly sparked. The outpouring began which led to three books. I refer to it as coming from the back of my brain, but we know such things are fortified by the contributions of the right brain. And, with my knowledge of Carl Jung’s personality typology I could see that my personality components were making a contribution. My primary function of Intuition was leading me to speculative fiction and my auxiliary function of thinking was saving me from utter disorganization because it forced me toward organization.

In subsequent posts I’ll give more details on various components of what I call the writing process and what aids its organization and development.

What shapes the story of your life?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Origins and Sources of the Majesty Trilogy – Pt. 4

The Human Potential

Emerging Themes

In writing the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I found, even though I had a chart of its arc, that components of it were emergent. Just as the characters emerged as well. To me it was not a story of whatever form. It had to have a future reflective of us and possibilities. 

In the scope of things it may be that we are merely a life form that emerged on this beautiful and unusual planet. And in time we may well vanish into the history of the universe leaving no trace whatsoever.

But what I saw was that there is the matter of potential that may lead to our transformation or even possibly some forms beyond who we are just now.

Exploring Us and Our history

In mythology we see themes in human existence as well as our development. In gods and goddesses we view ourselves but our future as well. It seems we take the hopes of our youth into thoughts about what might be to come. We are restless and often not willing to accept how it is right now for ourselves personally or collectively. In our recent past we see the acquisition of culture and language and now so many more things.  I say “recent past” because it is apparent that we have been developing for millions of years, but it is in the last thousands of years we see a sudden “maturation” and acquisitions of new skills. And now technology is thrusting us forward in a whole new way.

We regard history, but also regard our future. Parts of who we are seem little changed. But other parts are intriguing.

Carrying Forward and Progressing

When we look at human history we see some things which change little although on the surface there is difference. For much of our history we had ruling families and still do. We had kings and now we have people we are calling oligarchs. They simply direct and rule our lives in different ways. But developmentally there has been a change at the same time as we have struggled to acquire and maintain democracies where the mass of people actually have a say in government. It is a struggle to maintain it nonetheless. 

Without warning come new themes such as the liberation of women. I know I say this over and over but I’m intrigued about what this movement may mean. Suddenly we have women participating in a way which goes beyond what has gone before.

Our lives are woven together. There is chaos and cruel brutality even as there is caring for those amongst us. While some may care not at all about the welfare of others, there are some who set up beneficial foundations.

The Call of a Future

One purpose fiction can serve is to stir us to examine not just ourselves personally but as creatures on this earth. We see some marked changes over time and emergent themes born of dreams and hopes. But what is intriguing is the possibility not just for fundamental change but what may mean transformation. It may come upon us or we may grasp and trigger it. It is up to use individually and collectively. The two themes of Mysterium and Malestrom in this trilogy relate to interplay of fundamental force. We may give them names as we search and explore. It all grows out of asking “What if?” as a means to draw us forward to an intriguing future.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Freud Versus Jung

Two Forms of Reality

 

What do these names mean to you?

Once again we encounter the question of what is reality. These two names represent very different views and relationships to the larger elements of society and culture.

Anyone in the mental health field will inevitably come in contact with the writings of Sigmund Freud. Not necessarily Carl Jung. Freud was important in advancing the field of mental health and forming it into a system used to treat what were called mental disorders. He made us aware of the existence of the unconscious mind which we are only now being able to look at in brain imaging. Jung might have come from another planet.

Why Mental Illness?

Freud was very close to the development of western medicine. We had come to the point where there was the thought that people might not suffer infestation by evil spirits. Calling what was happening a mental illness meant they could be removed from not well informed intervention by the church. That was a step forward but as we will see in later posts it was not always to the point.

A Broader Perspective

I’ll be frank to say that Jung fascinated me much more so than Freud. Both men were Europeans but Freud was closer to western thought. Jung foraged the world and shed light on not just our mental systems, but culture and elements of deep meaning.

Both men brought us utility of different kinds. Freud made us realize that there was such a thing as an unconscious mind. It is only now as we probe the brain with new tools that we can see the operation of the unconscious forming up prior to conscious awareness. Each man dealt with reality in their own way.

Myth and Truth

In Jung’s search he related to mythology and he brought us fascinating commentaries and revelations. But he did something more. In searching the world he recognized that there is a personality system in humans. A systematic study of human personality turned out to have absolutely nothing to do with mental illness. The system Jung devised, or perhaps the better word is uncovered, is the basis for the Myers-Briggs Personality Typology which, if you would like to know about your personality you can find it on line. Simply ask our friend Google and you will be taken to it.

Both of these men dealt with reality in their own way. Freud seemed closer to the western scientist while Jung sought reality of other sorts. What I found particularly fascinating about Jung was the mythological components which take us to all manner of alternatives. We can see a great deal about our speculative foragings.

Jung had fascinating perspectives. He wrote an entire book about alchemy. His conclusion was that it was not a search for how to change lead into gold. He saw it as a bridge from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment as people were exploring new ways.
In Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams and Reflections is found fascinating revelations about a man who broke the bounds of ordinary reality. It is both about him and philosophical.

Both Offer Meaning

Sometimes there is a debate about truth and these men. I see no such debate needed. Each offered something fascinating and brought us forward. I have to admit I feel much closer to the work of Jung because we are the same personality type. Freud did good work but his thinking did not enroll me in his world. Both men speak to us about important elements of the human experience and, in the end, they may have nothing to do with mental illness.

Have you encountered the work of these men? What was your reaction?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt