So Much For the Holy Grail
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Joseph Campbell was a college professor who studied comparative mythology and comparative religion. As a researcher and writer, he was interested in describing the human experience as it is expressed in stories across many cultures across the world. If you’ve ever watched Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or other action-adventure movies, they typically employ elements of his theory of human experience in creating the plot.
His theory, known as the monomyth (one mythic pattern) or the “Hero’s Journey” is organized into three acts of the journey:
Spending time studying Campbell’s work is fascinating, but for this article I would like to focus on the just first act: Departure. Last Friday, I spoke about human desire and how it motivates us towards some achievement or obtainment and how it causes anxiety and sometimes depression along the way when we cannot reach that which we seek. Campbell speaks about the beginning of a journey in this way, that some distinction or “separation” is created which causes the hero of the story to venture off into the unknown.
That core distinction or difference that Campbell identifies between the hero-self and the vast environment (other), is a good way to think about the different way of relating to the world that I speak about when describing the RealitySeeker philosophy.
It is common to think of ourselves as a separate entity, a self separated from the body and separated from the outside world. When we think of ourselves that way, we necessarily come to think that in order to get anywhere or accomplish anything “we” must venture out “to” some other place to achieve it. That’s precisely the orientation that I’m suggesting that we reconsider.
My friend Philippe Bitton commented on several of my articles last week, and he mentioned that there is a difference between seeking and doing, and that is the distinction I would like to make for you here. To help you understand, I ask that you think of doing as watching or paying very close attention to the details of doing any particular activity. Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti referred to it as a comparison between “thinking of yourself” and “watching yourself.” That’s because when we are concerned with egoistic desires, we are treating the self as a separate thing from the whole of existence. If the totality of being is a whole, which is a case I will make to you, then the self is not what we imagine within our heads, but rather everything with which we come in contact. That takes some time to understand. When we just watch what is going on, and pay attention to the details, we employ a kind of objectivity that we cannot access when we are wrapped up in egoistic thinking.
Krishnamurti describes it like the difference between having a network of words that we use to represent what we are seeing that distract us from just watching what is there. We speak to ourselves as we go throughout our day and we become absorbed in the pre-decided narrative of what the world is, as opposed to watching it in order to better understand.
Alan Watts explains that watching the world in this particular way is known as mysticism. I think that word is confusing to a Western audience who immediately imagines some wizardry or other types of belief in a supernatural layer to reality. It’s not that. Rather, it’s a degree of healthy spirituality to help people step out of seeking and connect deeper with their reality to the extent that is possible.
I will be explaining this in greater detail over the next several articles. Please offer feedback in the “comment” sections of the blog posts. It really helps me understand how I’m doing sharing this information with you.
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