Little myths come and go, but a great one, can last for thousands of years. People are still captivated by ancient myths like the Epic of Gilgamesh, Isis and Osiris, and the Popol Vuh. Of course, Christianity isn't even considered a myth (yet), by the masses that follow the religion 'fundamentally' (imo an akward term for taking the metaphor literally).

It seems, the epic myths aren't created in the same manner, as the little myths and stories, like the Star Wars saga, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia etc., which are all created by a single individual, familiar with symbols and archetypes.

Epic myths like the birth and life story of the Buddha, as told in the Pali Canon, or the birth/life/death and resurrection of Christ, or those listed above, seem quite different; they seem to be created naturally, over the course of time by a number of different people. They may begin with the vision of a single 'spiritual hero', but their experience is built upon later, appearantly by people attempting to show their prowess, concerning knowledge of psychological death and rebirth, the different degrees of the mystics transcendent experience, and the symbols and archetypes that represent it.

Without the primary vision, i.e., the psychological death and resurrection of the spiritual hero, and an acccount of their transcendent experience--and without the wise men, intimately familiar with the symbols and archetypes that represent the experience--you have no epic myths, just epic stories and little myths...

Something to keep in mind: all the names and forms, for God, in all his names and forms, come from some form of human.



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  • Scott,

    Thank you.  Very interesting that there could be a genetic marker or predisposition to the kinds of sensitivities which would result in the crisis and re-synthesis. 

    If I understand you correctly, then if the individual's new vision is catchy, then there is the secondary mazeway resynthesis.

    By "catchy" I'm implying that the combination of the new values and beliefs as expressed by that personality has a resonance with others (provides the hook for the other folk's projections, matches with their unconscious expectations, aspirations etc..).


  • Evolutionary psychiatrists use sickle cell anemia (SCA), as an analogy for the group splitting hypothesis. The disease is due to a genetic mutation with two possible expressions. With the homozygous form of SCA (i.e., 2 or more alleles coding for a gene/trait are the same, i.e. recessive/recessive), the red blood cells are damaged, causing pain and early mortality.

    Conversely, those with the heterozygous expression of SCA (2 or more alleles coding for a gene/trait are different, i.e. recessive/dominant), are only considered carriers, they have the SCA gene, but it's effect on the red blood cells is benign, so they don't suffer any illness. In fact, the heterozygous expression, produces an unusual hemoglobin, that provides a resistance to malaria. Scientists believe, the only reason why the deadly form of SCA exists--within the human genome--is that the benign form, protects countless more people, with that resistance to malaria.

    According to the theory, schizophrenia is like the homozygous form of SCA. It had to exist, so that there could be shaman, i.e., charismatic schizotypal personalities (the heterozygous form), who are able to split the group, when it becomes too large, to be sustained by the local resources.

        “Genetic events occurring prior to the migration of H. sapiens out of Africa 150 -100,000 years ago, gave rise to a genetic spectrum that, in its homozygous form resulted in the schizophrenic phenotype, while heterozygous ‘schizotypal’ individuals possessed cognitive advantages that enhanced their relative fitness. Thus, schizophrenia evolved as a trade off, firstly, in the emergence of complex social cognition and secondly in the emergence of a phenotype that exhibited unusual creativity and iconoclasm and may be associated with the great cultural and scientific advances of human history.” J.K. Burns Department of Psychiatry, Nelson Mandela School of Medicine

  • Hi Scott, thanks for this opportunity to talk about these topics!

    1) Not sure how one can tell sometimes between a mass religious movement and a mass psychosis.  I suppose one way would be to see how extreme the projections are. 

    These might be some indicators: 

    • Is my human religious leader an actual Diety or an absolutely infallible leader? 
    • How do we treat others who may not agree with us? 

    2) All human beings have complexes.  They are essential to survival.  In fact at a certain level complexes  ARE those instincts which keep us alive.  20,000 years ago mankind probably had a "Saber Toothed Tiger" Complex.  And it was a good thing that they did. :-)) 

    I know that in common usage, the term "Complex" implies something like a neurosis, but the more general concept refers to the charged images that surround some life principle (archetypes) which allows a human being to access the energy/principle in order to survive and grow. 

    The "problem" complexes which give rise to neuroses, psychoses, etc... are the "autonomous complexes," which are repressed in the unconscious and when constellated can seize us and overpower the ego with its own telos which is a non-generative expression of an archetype. 

    Whether the Buddha had any complexes in the negative/neurotic sense of the term, I have no idea.  If I had to guess, I'd say probably not, since any significant autonomous complex drains off so much energy from the ego that it's unlikely he could have achieved Enlightenment with an autonomous complex of any significance.  And from the story of his "trials" under the bodi tree, between the armies assaulting him and the ladies enticing him, if he had any autonomous complexes they would have gotten constellated and done him in in any event. :-)

    3)  I'm not familiar with Evolutionary Psychiatry.  Can you fill me in a bit on this and the concept of the "group splitting hypothesis?"

    Best Regards!


    • Hi Joe, thanks for another fascinating post. I have a much better understanding, of the relationship between archetypes (of the unconscious) and complexes now.

      Evolutionary Psychiatry, basically works on the same premise that you just articulated, i.e., that mental illness (such as negative complexes), no matter how strange the manifestation, served some advantageous purpose--in some place--during our evolution (e.g., paranoid personality disorder was a good thing, when Saber Toothed Tigers were running around).

      In order to explain the group splitting hypothesis, I first have to shed some light, on Anthropologist Anthony F. Wallace's theory of 'Primary Mazeway Resynthesis'. 

          “The re-synthesis is most dramatically exemplified in the career of the prophet, who formulates a new religious code during an hallucinatory trance. Typically, such persons, after suffering increasing depreciation of self-esteem as the result of their inadequacy to achieve the culturally ideal standards, reach a point of either physical or drug induced exhaustion, during which a re-synthesis of values and beliefs occurs. The re-synthesis is, like other innovations, a re-combination of preexisting configurations. The uniqueness of this particular process is the suddenness of conviction, the trance like state of the subject, and the emotionally central nature of the subject matter…” Anthony F Wallace, 1956

      Primary Mazeway Resynthesis is a fancy name for a vision that causes a sudden and dramatic spiritual rebirth. The word Mazeway, is meant to sum up the person’s entire world view, including their belief system, moral code, self-image and outlook on the past and future. These mental constructs undergo sweeping changes, i.e., are resynthesized, as a result of the vision, and following ego collapse.

      As you seemed to intuit, with the Buddha's 'trials' under the tree, these visions naturally resolve problems with troublesome, 'autonomous complexes', which causes an immediate transformation of consciousness, i.e., an instant change in core beliefs, that in turn changes the self-image and world view. If they can convince others to believe, what they have suddenly come to believe via the vision--to the degree that it changes their core beliefs--they've successfully facilitated 'Secondary Mazeway Resynthesis'.

      The group splitting hypothosis, answers a question that's puzzled social scientists for over 100 years. Why do the gene of genes responsible for a disorder as maladaptive as schizophrenia, continue to exist within the human genome? With early mortality rates, and low birth rates, being a characteristic trait of the disease, why hasn't the process of natural selection--over millions of years--eliminated the 'bad' gene(s)?

      The premise is: like most animal species, we humans have both a maintenance and dispersal phenotype (some members of the species are genetically hardwired to stay local, and some to leave). For our species, the charismatic schyzotypal personality, fulfills the same functions, as the dispersal phenotype in animals.   

         "In the ancestral environment a group would reach a critical size at which it began to outgrow its resources. At this point, a schizotypal individual, having undergone a ‘mazeway resynthesis’ and spurred on by his or her iconoclastic ideas and possible ‘voices of the gods’ (Jaynes 2000), would offer a vision of a new and better ‘promised land’ to those who would follow. The shaman of traditional cultures such as the Inuit may be a more recent example of this type of character. The power of the schizotype was such that followers would enter his/her ‘delusional’ world (or at least go along with it), and the group would split. The converted and their leader would either stay and enter into a genocidal conflict for resources with the ‘outgroup’ or set off on a migration, dispersing our ancestors across the planet.” Stevens & Price, A New Beginning 2000

      Moses' vision on the mountain of Horeb, St. Paul's vision on the road to Damascus, Muhhamad's vision in a cave outside Mecca, and the Buddha's experience, under the bodhi tree, are all, in fact, examples of the 'primary mazeway resynthesis' phenomena. For the Buddha, his five friends--that experienced conversion immediately after--are examples of 'secondary mazeway resynthesis'. Likewise, Moses experienced a primary mazeway resynthesis, figuratively referred to as, the burning bush, and immediately after that, his brother Aaron experienced secondary mazeway resynthesis etc.

      Our ancient ancestors were aware of the primary and secondary mazeway resynthesis phenomena. They called it, "anointing by God" and "baptism by fire." 





  • Scott,

    Excellent topic!   Can a myth be "created?"  

    I'm wondering if the core of a myth could be like a symbol/Imago which "emerges" in the collective psyche, but because it's not recognized as such the symbol is instead seen (projected) onto the physical world as something concrete.   The hero's journey may be the narrative which arises around the projection and it's stages of incarnation and withdrawal.   

    Eral Shalit in his book: "The Complex," writes: 

    the complex serves as the vehicle that fleshes out the archetype, giving it human shape and personal body.    

    Shalit further explains that the complex acts as a vehicle for the archetypes, allowing them to be stepped down to a human level where they can be assimilated as nourishment.  It's likely that cultural complexes act in the same manner.

    So the hypothesis I'm presenting is:  The emergence of a hero and his/her narrative may be a projection of the collective psyche.    There's an energy that's needed.  Collective complexes form in order to bring these needed archetypes down to earth so that they can nourish the collective psyche.  But because people can't recognize this, they are fated to project and thus create a concrete manifestation - an actual person or idol or narrative  - which is capable of (for a time) carrying this energy in a form that they can relate to and thus assimilate. 


    • Hi Joe, I've been trying to wrap my mind around your hypothesis...Are you saying, mass movements--like early Christianity--are like Jungian 'complexes' for the masses? In the same way that a complex is built up, around an archetype, new religious movements are built up around the founder?

      • Scott,

        For your second question on religious movements, I would look at it in two ways:

        1.  The founder his or her self, and their level of consciousness, etc...  Whether the founder is an Avatar type figure or a Guru, or a televangelist minister, they are at some level in contact with some kind of awareness, energy, mana, spirit, etc... That level of awareness or the energy which they embody comes inside a wrapper of that person's personality.  The founder also exists in a cultural milieu and so they're going to have a particular personal and cultural tinged charge.  They're not going to be just a pure blank slate of white light without any hooks.  Therefore,  unless we're talking about a founder that nobody sees except in TV where the image can be tightly controlled and manipulated, that individual his or herself is going to possess some charisma, or mana.  What all this means is that the founder is going to provide huge hooks for certain kinds of projections.  Like what happens when one meets a girl who is a reasonably close approximation to one's inner image of their "dream girl."  If the images match, you could be possessed by "love" at first sight.  This is the Anima projection.  People fall in love with their Gurus in a similar fashion.

        2.  In the mass culture or some subculture, there are also cultural complexes which generate their own highly attractive, highly charged symbols, images, etc.. which in some way point to the core energy of that complex.  That core energy or archetype could be "the self" or the "anima" (the soul, the soul of the world, Gaia, etc..), or it could be some other needed energy or archetype that that culture is needing access to in order to survive and grow.  Thus, it could be an image of some principle, or narrative, or anticipation of some savior, etc...  So like the lover who is unknowingly carrying inside of themselves an image of their beloved, people in a culture also are unknowingly carrying around inside of themselves, charged images pointing to archetypes.  All it takes for a mass projection to occur is a target with the right kinds of hooks for this unconscious material that the culture is carrying.

        And so when these two come together you having the makings of a new movement around some charismatic founder who acts as the carrier for that projection.


        • Hi Joe, thanks again, for another awesome post. At first I didn't fully understand your premise, but thankfully, you've since articulated the idea perfectly, and now I'm on the same page, so to speak. But I still have some questions.

          1) In your view, what's the difference between a mass religious movement, and mass psychosis?

          2) Do you think, for example, the Buddha, was suffering from a complex? and if so, which archetype was it built upon?

          3) Do you know if anyone in the Intergral Movement, has tried, or is trying to integrate the principals of Evolutionary Psychiatry, i.e., the group splitting hypothesis of schizophrenia, into the mix?  



      • Hi Scott,

        Yes, mass movements, cultural shifts, viral memes, new Fads and fashions, etc... all of it, are manifestations of cultural complexes, which can turn into mass psychoses if the projections take on an extreme form - either a positive form (anima projection - "our Savior has arrived!", etc..) or a negative form (shadow projection - "those people are evil!", etc..).

        The neurotic is forced by his neurosis to take this step, but the normal person is not.  Instead he acts out his psychic disturbances socially and politically, in the form of mass psychoses like wars and revolutions.

        (From C.G.Jung CW-8, "The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche",pg 272)

        Whenever contents of the collective unconscious become activated they have a disturbing effect on the conscious mind, and confusion ensues.  If the activation is due to the collapse of the individual's hopes and expectations, there is a danger that the collective unconscious may take the place of reality.  This state would be pathological.  If on the other hand, the activation is the result of psychological processes in the unconscious of the people, the individual may feel threatened or at any rate disoriented, but the resultant state is not pathological, at least so far as the individual is concerned.  Nevertheless, the mental state of the people as a whole might well be compared to a psychosis.  If the translation of the unconscious into a communicable language proves successful, it has a redeeming effect.  The driving forces locked up in the unconscious are canalized into consciousness and form a new source of power, which may, however, unleash a dangerous enthusiasm.

        (C.G. Jung CW-8 "The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche", pg 313-315)
      • Hey Scott - Do you have any archetypes that based in Nature?

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