The Continuing Power of Greek Myth

Our summer has been so busy, with vacations, camping, and summer camps, that I’ve hardly had a minute to catch my breath and think about myth. However, we’re now getting toward the end of summer, and my fall classes are starting soon. I’ll be teaching a course on Comparative Mythology, as well as returning to the world of Ancient Greece and Rome. In returning to my reading on the Greeks and their myths, I’m delighted anew with the wonderful insights and lessons that Greek myth has to offer us, particularly when I think about the connections between myth and creativity.

I’ve been rereading Edward F. Edinger’s wonderful book on the Greeks, The Eternal Drama: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology. In the first paragraph, he defines myth thusly:

“A myth expresses metaphysical truths and gives answers to the basic questions of life.”

and then,

“For artists and poets, mythology is a treasury of images to be used in their craft, a common coin of the imagination for reminting into new forms.”

I agree with him on myth as a useful tool for artists, however I think it goes further than that. Myth itself has a lot to teach us about the creative process, and how (as creators) to make our work meaningful.

Edinger goes on to say:

“mythology is the self-revelation of the archetypal psyche…the deeper, archetypal level does not have it’s source in personal experience, but is an innate psychological structure, present at birth and common to all human beings just as the physical structure of the body is.”

and,

“The archetypal level is revealed in religions, the arts, in the fruits of human creativity, and in dreams and visions.”

When we revisit (and retell) the ancient stories, we’re tapping into something that goes much farther into the depths of our common psyche than we could alone. This is the way that artists can ensure that their work touches people deeply, in a way that is impactful. Doesn’t every artist wish that for the consumers of their work? That the gut level feeling of being affected by the experience of the work is present? I know how I feel when I’ve just encountered a painting, a film, a novel that reaches that core part of myself; there’s a physiological response in the solar plexus, at that place that Jung tells us the gods reside.

Today, I’ve written on this very topic in my first column for The Creativity Post, and I’m so thrilled that I’ll be able to continue to explore this topic there in the months to come. More later!

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