December 30, 2012 by Bill
We live in an exciting and stimulating period of history. One age is dying… and the new age is not quite born.
We see radical changes in sexual patterns, lifestyles, marriage styles, women’s roles, family structures, education, energy, religion, the Christian church and in almost every conceivable aspect of life. We can withdraw in anxiety, or we can become negative and pessimistic. If we choose either of these paths, we forfeit our chance to participate in the creation of the future.
To live in this age, or any age, requires an enormous amount of courage, faith and willingness to take risks. But to participate in the forming of a future is to create. And courage, risk-taking, creativity and faith are the attributes that have continually reformed the structure of civilization.
What is creative courage? It is the willingness to pursue new forms, new symbols and new patterns of truth. The alternative is stagnation.
Every profession — technology, diplomacy, business, arts, medicine, law — requires those who possess a creative courage. Certainly that is true in teaching and the ministry.
At the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce has his young hero write these words in his diary: “Welcome O Life… I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”
In other words, every creative encounter is a new event, and every time requires another assertion of courage and faith and involves risk. I especially like the words, “to forge… the uncreated conscience of my race.” Joyce is saying here that conscience is not something handed down ready-made from Mount Sinai, nor the Sermon on the Mount, given once and for all. More…
December 23, 2012 by Bill
Bill Moyers had two interviews with Joseph Campbell for his national television program, Bill Moyers Journal. In his introduction Moyers said “Joseph Campbell is one of the world’s foremost scholars of mythology.” Anyone having an interest in becoming religiously educated and enlightened will be helped by insights from these interviews.
Campbell brings out, of course, that mythological themes or motifs such as flood, virgin birth, resurrected hero, “heaven” concepts, a sacred meal (or ritualistic cannibalism) have a world-wide distribution and are everywhere. They are organized and ritualized according to local needs. In the Moyers’ interviews, Campbell said, “When people try to interpret a spiritual symbol (in mythology) as though it referred to a concrete fact, you have lost the message.”
Moyers: “Give me an example.”
Campbell: “Well, the image of the virgin birth is perfect for an example. This is a motif that occurs in all the mythologies of the world. There are virgin births all over the place in all religions. ‘Virgin birth’ is symbolic of the birth of the spiritual life, and so with resurrection themes or motifs. Misunderstanding consists in reading spiritual mythological symbols as though they were references to historical, factual events.”
Other observations by Campbell in the interviews include the following: “The ‘hero’ in mythology is always the founder of something, a new religion, a new age, a new way of life. The ‘hero’ founders of all religions usually go on their vision quest. The Buddha went into solitude and sat beneath the tree of Immortal Knowledge; Jesus goes off into the desert for 40 days; Zoroaster goes off into the desert, and so it goes. And you might say the founder of one’s own life instead of living everybody else’s life, must come from a quest too. More…
December 16, 2012 by Bill
We are buried this time of year in mythology, legend and folklore. It’s good to get it all in perspective by rediscovering a few historical facts.
I have lost count of the thousands of time that we have been told that Christmas celebrates the origin of Christianity — which, of course, is false. Christmas was around for eons before Jesus was born.
The winter solstice comes from two ancient words, sol, the name of a sun god, and stice, meaning still, or the day that the sun stands still, the shortest day of the year.
Since all cultures have been so dependent upon the seasons, the four major festivals centered on the summer and winter solstices and the spring the autumn equinoxes. An equinox — equi, meaning equal, and nox, meaning nights, or equal nights — occurs midway between the winter and summer solstice, when days and nights are equal in length.
Those are the four corners of the celestial year. But with the return of the sun to once again warm the earth and bring forth a resurrection of life, the winter solstice became the greatest of all the festivals.
The ancient festival in Rome was known as the Saturnalia. The emperor Aurelian established an official holiday called “Sol Invecti,” meaning “unconquered sun” in honor of the sun god, Sol. It was held Dec. 24 and 25 and established Dec. 25 as the official solstice. All the other religions that worshiped sun gods also took Dec. 25 as their fixed date for their festivals. More…