When you follow your calling, when you listen to what your soul is telling you you are here for, when you follow that “Theseus” thin thread out of the Labyrinth to the T, then the whole universe opens up and comes to your aide, and a magical track opens up that automatically takes you where you need to be, and the things you need to fulfill your destiny come to you automatically. Life becomes effortless simply by making a decision to say ‘yes’ to your calling which is more often than not, not respected by the outside world, and that’s one of the first hurdles.
The Beatles are metaphorical for the “belly of the whale” motif in mythology. I never realized it myself until I read “Anthology” and realized that they had spent almost 2.5 years in Hamburg playing 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now this isn’t literally true. They did have breaks. They definitely went home many times for breaks, but the most important aspect is that it is psychologically true. Apparently the clubs were physically below the street level, like walking down into a subway, and I do remember a compadre of theirs saying, “We’d go down their and wouldn’t come for air for a week.” Now this obviously is not literally true. But one understands the psychological, metaphorical implication: giving yourself over to something completely. That’s the idea of the belly of the whale motif in mythology. Even the the locals of the Cavern Club in Liverpool seemed to be stunned by the transformation of the post Hamburg Beatles. That’s the central idea of the “Belly of the Whale” motif. It’s exactly analogous to the idea of the male initiatory experience: You go in one person and come out the other side with a completely transformed consciousness. All mythology, as Joseph Campbell said, is about the transformation of consciousness.
Transformation of Consciousness is the goal of Mythology as well as Initiatory Experiences. They can happen involuntarily (You’re born into a certain group) or voluntarily (You have an intent to become someone new.) Regardless, the method is the same: extended periods of “submersion” in which there is “no way out.” Only under those circumstances does a crucial part of the brain “switch” and a true transformation take place.
I’d say there are two main aspects to the Belly of the Whale symbolism and they are psychologically connected although in the world express themselves in two different ways: 1) As noted above with the Beatles is the aspect of a career. The way to get to the top is complete emersion, giving yourself over to it completely, allowing yourself to be “swallowed up.” This is the appropriate attitude for a young person, say 20-30, deciding on their career. They have to know the irony that this immersion, once a decision has been made, will free them, not confine them, as long as it’s their true calling, not someone else’s.
2) Is more metaphysical in the sense primarily of acceptance. The trash compactor scene from Star Wars comes to mind. If you just take the literal, mechanical view of nature, then its all about a group of adventurers who are most certainly going to die in a horrible way. At best their chances are 50/50. But what in the deepest sense does this scene really mean?
Update 6/13/20: I realized as I was watching a lot of music production videos on Youtube, and as their algorithm keeps bringing you more, I realized that the amount of content I could watch on this subject is nearly endless. And then I realized, that’s it! You keep at something non-stop until you break through to another level. The irony is its your laser-like focus on one subject that opens up the entire world to you.
Now, I would say there is at least one caveat: whatever that subject is, I think it needs to be your true soul’s calling. In other words, if your only reason for doing it is to get rich and famous, it still might work, but there’s something lost in translation. And the whole process will not be fun. If it is your true soul’s calling, then it will be feeding you the whole way in terms of inspiration, joy, and fulfillment, even in this so-called “Belly of the Whale” period in which you are not getting outside attention or rewards. I’d say that’s the test for your true calling: If you feel emotional reward from the act itself, then that’s it. Stephen King and writing is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this analogy. Especially if you want to be a writer, go watch some of his speeches and interviews on Youtube. He mentions this aspect as being primary.
It’s to put the psyche in accord with nature. Once a hero begins an adventure he quickly learns he has to let go of his ego thinking and let the quest itself be his guide. In some adventures the hero is humbled (Odysseus, Parsifal, Job, Indra). In others he is completely eaten up or otherwise destroyed (Jonah, Jason). In all of these cases some kind of submission is required to an unintelligible, invisible force. That submission has to be utter (Actual death in the Christ story, and a complete willingness to die in the Buddha—at which moment his fulfillment is activated, and he achieves Nirvana). Yet all the while he is still striving for his goal. Though chaos may blow him all over the place for reasons that don’t seem fair, he somehow maintains his inner acceptance even in the face of the ultimate. And continues to try to move forward. The schizophrenic is the person who does the opposite: He won’t let fate wash over him, won’t let his consciousness transform, and keeps insisting on his ego’s program of control. He can’t accept the cards he is dealt and when the world around him won’t conform to his ego’s desire (which in truth like Jay Gatsby’s can never be fulfilled) he finally refuses to play the game. But that leaves him in a frozen state in which the intensity of suffering only increases until he feels he utterly cannot escape it and finally is left wailing on the ground.
So the hero is representative of a psyche that has learned to accept, submit to, and otherwise come into accord with nature, which is also analogous to his subconscious and as Jung put it, his “undiscovered self.”
Some heroes start out too proud and have to be humbled. Others start out too humble (Al-addin, many peasant types in the Grimm tales, Jack, etc.) And their adventure consists of realizing the diamond glowing inside. The lowly peasant boy, usually the third and youngest child, whom no one else respects either, turns out to be the only one in the kingdom with the courage to defeat the dragon and win the princess. Somehow his willingness to get in the game with the same type of straightforward intent, yet without expectation, and even more crucially without desperation, just like the Buddha’s acceptance under the Bo tree, and the Christ’s acceptance hanging ostensibly, metaphorically from that same tree, activated his superpowers, transformed his consciousness and that of the whole world around him.
Religion is simply when the act of being with these stories, symbols, and rituals, has the same effect on your psyche. The labyrinth is your socially conditioned mind and body. What’s trapped inside is your undiscovered self, your soul. Adriane’s flax thread is symbolic of religion and mythology itself, the song of the soul’s calling. One only has to follow it. The Great Way, as the koan says, has no gate.
Refusal of the call converts the adventure into its negative.Joseph Campbell
The water represents the energy, the ambrosia of eternity pouring into the field of time. The endless flowing, the continuous flowing, represents the eternal nature of this mystical dimension and also the infinite nature of its source. Since you can’t see the water’s source, that represents that it’s coming from the ground of being and also that it’s coming from another dimension which is invisible to our senses. On a deeper level there’s the paradox and the archetypal sense of the infinite coming from nothingness, which ironically enough is being postulated as the literal truth in the latest scientific origin stories such as the Big Bang theory.
Most fountains that you see spring from a round bowl-shaped container or vase. The inside of the bowl or pool is sacred space, a “Holy Grail” you might say, which represents the transcendence of duality or on a psychological level, the gap between our thoughts.
Water has long been seen as symbolic of the ambrosia of eternity—and in mythology and psychology as symbolic of the subconscious. A fountain represents a sacred opening, gap or tunnel which is a connection to eternity itself—as well as to the depths of our own being.
In a way, a kind of mini temple, yet completely natural: a religious, mystical experience paradoxically combining both the mystical and the physical, representing a connection created by nature herself.
This is why it evokes an archetypal response of beauty in most people: The aesthetic being, at least on the symbolic level, the manifestation of a mystery.
02/09/16 Update: One element that struck me recently, especially looking at the still photograph, is the Lingam/Yoni symbolism. And there is a strong dichotomy of the Lingam, representing Shiva, coming out of the bowl/vase shaped Yoni, which is representative of the feminine aspect. But if you think about it from a Hindu perspective this makes total sense: The “Void” out of which everything comes and back into which everything goes is the Mother Goddess of the Universe. She is it. Symbolically speaking, the divine feminine represents life itself, and the Lingam, the male divine, represents the snake, who by piercing life, right through the middle, throws off death, just a snake throws off its skin.
The fact that the Lingam and Yoni are seen as together, like the Ying and Yang of Asia, as well as the water and bowl of a fountain, represents that the two are one, that the feminine and masculine are merely two different aspects of the same thing, just like the eternal and the imminent, the mysterious and the manifest, and indeed, life and death: this represents to the soul the transcendent nature of its own being.
Read this quote by Joseph Campbell
“Nevertheless-and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol-the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero.” – The Hero with a Thousand Faces, page 217, The Crossing of the Return Threshold
Here, the “realm of the gods” is symbolized by the Yoni, the void, the bowl, the feminine. And the “world we know” is represented by the Lingam/Masculine aspect. The masculine is representative of manifestation, but that manifestation has the potentiality to come in contact with the divine, indeed become divine, if it has the energy, drive, and intent to summon itself into one direction, namely that of the spontaneity residing inside the bowl of its own heart.
Another dichotomy: Notice in the fountain and in Hindu temples, the Lingam aspect is coming out of the Yoni, not going in: That’s symbolic of a resurrection. New life (Nova Vita) in this case not coming from sexual intercourse, but from a birth of the heart.
Opening the world to the dimension of mystery. To realize the mystery that underlies all forms.
“That’s the message of the myth: you as you know yourself are not the final term of your being.”
Joseph Campbell: The indication is of a notion of a plane of being that’s behind the visible plane and which is somehow supportive of the visible one to which we have to relate. I would say that’s the basic theme of all mythology… That there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one. Now, whether it is thought of as a world or simply an energy, uh, that differs from time to time and place to place.
Bill Moyers: What we don’t know supports what we do know.
JC: That’s right.
*About the 11:30 mark in the Power of Myth, the First Storytellers.
Ritual is one way of relating to this invisible plane.
JC: “Through the ritual that dimension is struck which transcends temporality and out of which Life comes and back into which it goes.” – 24:16
“What all the myths have to deal with is transformation of consciousness, that you’re thinking in this way and you have now to think in that way.” – JC – 16:10 Power of Myth, The Hero’s Journey.
The labyrinth in which the hero soul has become lost. That’s the place from which we are all starting. Did the ego build this labyrinth? Or is the labyrinth a metaphor for the ego itself? Those are interesting questions, but they aren’t nearly as interesting, practically speaking, as what the Wax String of Theseus stands for. The wax string is a metaphor for the thing that got the hero, Theseus, out of the labyrinth. Some qualities strike me about it:
- It’s very smallness, thinness, almost invisible quality represents the fact that it is something representative of the spirit, soul, the psychology. It’s easily lost, like a feeling, but if held onto can lead you out.
- That same narrowness represents single-mindedness of purpose, and an unbending intent. It also represents a psychological commitment. So that nothing distracts from it. It’s very narrow but very long, meaning that, commitment, ironically, leads to freedom, adventure, and, in short, the way out of misery.
I’ve been reading a lot of Grimm’s Fairy-Tales in the last few weeks. This kind of material really feeds my soul, makes me happy. But I’ve only been “allowing” myself one or two stories a day. It strikes me that when you find something that really awakens your passion, why compartmentalize or limit yourself to it for one hour a day? My sense of this and similar experiences, is that, like the Wax String, you should hold on to them, not let them go, stay with them, all day and all night, at least until they lead you “out” of the Labyrinth. That’s my sense of “The Hero’s Adventure” and more specifically the metaphorical, or one possible metaphortical meaning of this element in this particular story.