Digital painting idea one

Based on a myth of Dionysus, going back to the stuff I was talking about for the Renaissance artists:

dressing the contemporary world up with clothes from the past as a way of understanding the present

Digital painting idea two

Based on a thing I read in a book about Nietschze and Dionysus, i’m thinking of these paintings as a sort of journey.

dressing the contemporary world up with clothes from the past as a way of understanding the present

Art and Dionysus

Was talking about reading that book on Dionysus in an earlier post that also included the idea of myth and cult, just had a look about for the artworks that featured in the book and stumbled upon quite a number of works that feature or represent this particular god and his myth. The name Bacchus is the Roman name.


Andre Derain

Cy Twombly


Cy Twombly

Henry Matisse

The Power of Myth

As I have been going through my research I feel like I am continually been pushed further back into history and finding interesting information, whilst trying to keep my head in the present which is proving to be quite difficult. One thing I keep coming across is the idea of the myth, and the effect that this has on cultural and individual behaviours and rituals.

I read a book a while back called Dionysus: Myth and Cult by WF Otto who details in introductory chapters the relationship between myths and cults, focussing more on the Greeks but occasionally putting these issues into a modern context, he also briefly discusses how art creation has been affected by this. Never thought that when I read it could become relevant to this project.

Otto at the start of the book, before analysing the myths of the Greek god, talks about the role of myth and religion and how they effect the individual and the community they are living in, I suppose in an attempt to try get the reader into the mind set of how important these old stories and beliefs were to the Greeks. The more I think about it I increasingly think about the idea of myth and religion on artist from all ages, in the Renaissance we can easily find these concepts, two famous examples: Da Vincis Last Supper and Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus:

Only really started thinking about mythology so it will be interesting to see where it leads me

Interesting article on mythology

Demystifiying Myth and the power of myth to bind and to free

By demystification I mean too say… shed some clarity on a subject not well understood in a culture that has become mythically illiterate.

My goal is also to emphasize the need for a new and overarching myth or story. A story that will serve us as we encounter a time period unlike any we’ve encountered before. There are millions of people around the world who are ready to embrace a greater vision of what it means to be a human society—a global humanity.

Those of us ready for something greater signify the critical mass needed to begin coalescing around a story broad enough to unite all who dream and wish to work for a better world. A world built on cooperation. I will use the terms myth and story interchangeably.

Joseph Campbell was emphatic about the planetary myth—the story of humanity as a whole. His deep knowledge of the mythic realm compelled him to assert that the future of humanity’s socio-cultural evolution lay with a new story capable of accounting for everything relevant to a story relating everyone to everybody else and everyone to the entirety of the planet. Theworld’s current dominant story system thrives by creating divisions and coercing others to its point of view.

What is Myth and why is it important?

Myth is such a seemingly tenuous, multi-faceted and yet all encompassing subject, like the air around us, that I find it difficult to define in just one nice neat sentence. It would be creations-mythslike trying to define life in a single sentence. Not to say I won’t try, but perhaps the simplest “on the street” definition of myth would be…a story told almost exclusively in symbolic terms.Not that the foregoing defines myth, but it’s useful to start the conversation.

There are two primary schools of thought on the subject of myth. Theobjectivitist school is inclined to view myth as a primitive (read obsolete) way of describing the phenomenal world. The second school, the subjectivists, say that myths are timeless reflections of universal “truths”, values and archetypes. As with most dichotomies both can be said to be true and greater accuracy tends to result when we reconcile the persistent illusion of absolutes.

Campbell may have tended more toward the subjectivist view, but I do not find him strict by any means. One may investigate myth for both elements and I think Campbell was more interested the timeless functions of myth versus their more temporal or practical aspects. I too am more interested in the timeless, but I am tempered by a desire to not confuse the two.

How does Myth Relate to Religion

adam-eve-garden-of-edenCampbell quipped… “Mythology” is what we call someone else’s religion.” Here Campbell alludes to the literalization of myth.The Western world tends to read its Bible in a literal manner. The literal interpretation of ancient text is to wholly misunderstand the point and meaning of mythos.

I would say that religion is what results when myth is commodified, packaged and artificially flavored. Religion also inserts intermediaries (priests, cardinals, bishops, popes) between you and the direct experience of whatever facet of mythology is in question. Religion seems more to function as a form of political control and social engineering device.

If myth is natural and organic then religion is processed, full of preservatives and toxic ingredients.   Mythology gives you wings while religion binds you literally and figuratively. The etymology of religion comes from the latin word religare which means “to bind.” Myth equates to direct experience and with religion one must go to a very specific place on regular basis and have someone tell them about the “spiritual-religious” experience.

Religionists also talk about the rewards that await us if we conduct our lives “righteously” while alive.  In contrast someone from a culture still steeped in its mythos will tell you that you that everything is “sacred”, you never leave the temple and that our rewards are to be found in the here and now. Albert Einstein sums it up by saying…

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Religion begins by separating, by selecting what constitutes the miraculous, a “sin”, a “grace” and the will of God.  Who is to judge what is “sacred”, what is “holy” and what is not and what is “God’s” will. Don’t get me wrong myth is by no means a relativistic free for all. Everything has limits and without certain boundaries everything would be one big unintelligible mess, but myth does not impose, insist or prescribe punishment. Mythos guides, suggests, references or points toward and perhaps warns of treacherous terrain.

Some definitions of myth according to the late Joseph Campbell.

Joseph Campbell,  defines myth as “…  a directing of the mind and heart, by means of profoundly informed figurations, to that ultimate mystery which fills and surrounds all existencesying yang

Myth, Campbell says, is “a rendition of forms through which the formless form of forms can be known (The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology).” Further on in the same work, he says that mythology  “an organisation of images conceived as a rendition of the sense of life.”

“Religion is mythology misunderstood.”

Rites, Campbell tells us, are “not references but presences (Primitive Mythology)”, just like “physical formulae; written, however, not in the black on white… … …, but in human flesh. The individuals rendering it are not individuals any more but epiphanies of a cosmic mystery and, as such, taboo – hence ceremonially decorated and symbolically, not humanly, regarded and treated(Ibid.).”

“The material of myth is the material of our life, the material of our body, and the material of our environment, and a living, vital mythology deals with these in terms that are appropriate to the nature of the knowledge of time.”

Campbell declares unabashedly that without myth, even myth taken literally humans are lost: “For not only has it always been the way of multitudes to interpret their own symbols literally, but such literally read symbolic forms have always been . . . the supports of their civilizations, the supports of their moral orders, their cohesion, vitality, and creative powers. . . . With our old mythologically founded taboos unsettled by our own modern sciences, there is everywhere in the civilized world a rapidly rising incidence of vice and crime, mental disorders, suicides and dope addictions, shattered homes, impudent children, violence, murder. and despair” (Myths to Live By [Viking, 1972])

Stone age venus figures

Stone Age Venus figures symbolic of the feminine power once highly regarded by our earliest cultures.

The following paragraphs are taken from the page where the above unemboldened quotes are to be found. Theauthor of the page also has some telling things to say about myth.

“A myth is a set of cosmic laws perceived in human terms. (Not interpreted: for that we have religion, philosophy, art and science. Here, perceived is to be taken in its literal sense.) It is the form serving as interface between the abstract transcendent (understood here as “free from all concepts”) and the concrete existent, with information travelling both ways all the time.
A myth is always a narrative whose purpose is not to entertain but to energise the “everyday” through enactment (not re-enactment!) of the eternal creative now. The narrative of myth is brought to life by the performing of rites: ritual acts and utterances most of which tend to remain unchanged over centuries.”

Myth as navigational system

#5 The Tzolkin Code mytho-symbolically rendered IMG 5

A symbolic map of the known universe according to the ancient Meso-Americans. My work on the Art and Science of Synchronicity is based on the cosmovision of pre-colonial Meso-America. Those interested may review my ongoing work under the Synchronicity section.

Joseph Campbell died in 1987 and his name is still synonymous with the title of world’s foremost authority on the subject of mythology and comparative religion/spirituality. We may gather from the above quotes that myths are an essential component of a healthy society and how a society who loses touch with its myths is lost and to be plagued by every sort of social and individual ills.

If bread-water nourishes the objective brain-body then mythos nourishes our intuitive-emotional subjective self. How can mere stories have such importance?Myths it seems are timeless encapsulations of how humans render in symbolic terms the various forces, properties, elements and processes of nature.Myths also suggest how we are to relate with others and with said aspects of nature.

The foundational myths of any culture deal with origins (creation, coming into being) our life’s development, our relationship to nature, the mystery of existence and the transcendance of life to whatever may lie beyond the individual’s death. The essential myths offer instructions specific to each culture about how to “best” live and conduct ones life along with guidelines on how to deal with life’s recurrent themes and situations.

Instructions and guidelines are largely culture specific, but the stages of life and its recurrent themes are universal in nature. Birth, death, youth, middle age, social relations and our relations to the elements of nature are basic properties of people and cultures the world over and therefore, universal considerations. It is here where we find the source of Jung’sarchetypes and Campbell’s recurrent mythic motifs.

Seen as such we can now understand why stories are so important to the cohesion and survival of the collective-individual. The mental-emotional coherence-cohesion of the individual helps contribute to the coherence-cohesion of the group. The foregoing is a favorite attribution of evolutionary biologists and anthropologists to explain the development and maintenance of mythic systems.

They however do not distinguish between myth and religion. Myth is essential and integral to a healthy society. Religion or corrupted myth is like spoiled food. Religion may once again return to myth by dispensing with all of its artificial ingredients or the impositions of man over humankind and nature.

Myths may therefore be seen as mind maps with built-in sets of directions to best help the collective-individual navigate the terrain of life. We may now understand why Campbell said that a society who has either forgotten or misinterpreted its myths is for all intended purposes lost—disoriented and in the dark. The overarching function of myth is then to orient, to guide and to relate the individual-collective with the phenomenal world.

What I call the overarching function of myth is divided by Campbell into the four functions of myth.

Acording to Joseph Campbell the four functions of Myth are:

1. Mystical function: it brings us to the realisation of the wonder and the awe of the universe. Realisation, obviously, means establishing within the sphere of the experiential, with the implication that, through myth, our experience of the mystery is immediate (without a mediator) and always of the present moment, since anything immediate is now.
2. Cosmological function: the dimension with which science is concerned. Science shows you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through…
3. Sociological function: myth supports, validates and celebrates the social order which fashions its temporary cloak. In its innermost core, however, myth does not favour any particular socialcave paintings lascaux order and its support is not guaranteed in perpetuity. And here’s where the myths vary enormously from place to place…It is this sociological function of myth that has taken over in our world–and it is out of date…
4.Pedagogical function:myth, says Campbell, can teach us “how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. (Ibid.)”. “… … the goal of myth is to dispel … life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will. (The Hero with a Thousand Faces) ”

It is evident from the list that Campbell was rather well balanced in his approach and understanding of the all encompassing purpose and functionof mythos

Distinctions between myths. The culture specific features of mythic motifs.

Culture specificfeatures are non-universal traits. They may or may not be traits found and/or exemplified to the same degree in other groups. Except for culture specific motifs…mythic motifs are to be considered timeless, i.e. life’suniversal and recurrent themes.

Temporal-Circumstancial specifics of Mythic Motifs

What is the particular epoch, era and/or stage setting of the myth in question. What are circumstantial-situational features of the particular epoch, era and/or stage setting of the myth in question. Identifying such detail helps us to understand the value of why certain motifs were or are still valued.

Facetal and Comprehensive Myths

Myths according to width and breadth of scope. Certain myths emphasize a facet (Oedipus) of the socio-cultural matrix while others attempt to embrace its totality (Genesis).

[To be continued.]

This article concludes part 1 of a series of reports of the demystification of myth, its power, purpose and its relevance to the present age–the age of literalism.

The next report will treat the following aspects of myth.

Myths as..

set of relational instructions

time capsule from our ancient past

clue to present conditions

futures forecaster

self-fulfilling prophecy

Gustave Moreau

One of my favourite painters, part of the symbolist movement and expressed an interest in mythology and christian figures

Urs Fischer

Urs Fischer examines classical sculpture, his figures are made up wax that melt throughout the course of the exhibtion.

Another example of looking into the body in contemporary art whilst bringing up the idea of mythologicaly based ideas in sculpture.