Myths and Dreams

    In William James Tychonievich's post "The magician: preliminary thoughts", he cites a comment by Bruce Charlton: 

    "By analogy consider a myth: what is The myth of King Arthur, or Robin Hood or Merlin?  The answer is that there is no canonical or definitive myth, but only many different versions; yet somehow we feel that behind all the versions is a true myth, which operates without words or pictures but at a level of feelings. 

So the idea would be that that is the true meaning of a dream: the myth behind the dream - the same deep myth might lead to many different surface dreams."   

    In Tychonievich's post, this is in the context of the tarot cards.  He writes: 

    "A Tarot card like the Magician may also be considered analogous to a legendary figure like Arthur or Robin Hood.  It exists in many different versions, some of which constitute a more serious contribution to the myth than others. 

... 

Yet, as Bruce says, behind all the versions lies a single myth - and, despite its unhistorical nature, a true one."  

    This is a very interesting idea.  In this post, I want to explore this idea further.  Bruce Charlton has also written about three levels of consciousness: deep sleep, dreaming sleep, and normal waking consciousness.  Here is a representative post.  Also, one could search "Deep Sleep" on Bruce Charlton's blog.  Deep sleep is when there is no dreaming going on, when sleepers are least responsive to the external world.  

    Bruce Charlton has also written about Rudolf Steiner's idea that when interpreting dreams, "We should understand dreams by the feelings they evoke."  This makes perfect sense.  Because to interpret dreams according to pre-selected symbols doesn't take account of the personal character of dreams.  In one individual's dream, a dog may be frightening while in another person's dream, a dog may be friendly.  So, the role of any element in a dream depends on the person experiencing the dream and the role of that element in the dream as a whole.  

     And these ideas help us to make sense of myths as well.  Just as with dreams, a myth will have certain details that all feel significant in their place in the story.  Similar to folk tales, how certain numbers such as 3 or certain themes such as helping animals or unassuming people will show up repeatedly.  C.S. Lewis wrote about this in his book An Experiment on Criticism: 

    "There is, then a particular kind of story which has a value in itself - a value independent of its embodiment in any literary work.  The story of Orpheus strikes and strikes deep, of itself; the fact that Virgil and others have told it in good poetry is irrelevant.  To think about it and be moved by it is not necessarily to think about those poets or to be moved by them.  It is true that such a story can hardly reach us except in words.  But this is logically accidental.  If some perfected art of mime or silent film or serial pictures could make it clear with no words at all, it would still affect us in the same way. 

... 

    It is difficult to give such stories any name except myths." 

    Lewis also says that myths differ greatly in quality.  And this is the same of dreams.  Many dreams are simply incoherent, a jumble of images and events with no seeming meaning and some myths likewise have elements like this in them.  

    Now, if dreams are associated with myths, then is deep sleep associated with the feeling behind the dream?  In other words, is deep sleep a simple consciousness of pure feeling where we apprehend the feeling behind the dream, which then is shaped into the forms of a dream?  The other question is, is deep sleep or the true myth a lower or higher form of consciousness than normal consciousness?  I think for the true myths and true dreams it is probably both.  

    For example, myths are probably the most ancient forms of literature.  They arise out of a simple consciousness.  It is not necessary to be a great wordsmith to tell a mythic story, it is only necessary to be in touch with the deep springs from which such myths arise.  But on the other hand, even with our highly intellectual consciousness, we have not succeeded in plumbing all the depths of myths. 

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