Philosophy Spiritual

The Symbolic Meaning of the Belly of the Whale

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.

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.

Mythology Philosophy Pyschology Spiritual

The Essential Function of Mythology and Religion

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

Mythology Philosophy Pyschology Spiritual Uncategorized

The Symbolic Meaning of a Water Fountain

Water Fountain at Chenal Country Club
One can obviously see the phallic symbology of the water penetrating a yoni from beneath, but in a deeper sense, ironically a higher chakra sense, the form of a fountain represents each person and living being itself manifesting from a world of transcendence. And since each particle is of divine nature, so it your whole being.

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.

Culture Literature Mythology Philosophy Pyschology Spiritual

The Basic Theme of All Mythology

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.

Philosophy Spiritual Uncategorized

On Ego: The Labyrinth Metaphor

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.

Update: 03/11/15:

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. 


The Metaphorical Meaning of Sacrifice and Bliss in Mythology

The soul is the arrow. Brahman is the target. AUM is the bow.  — Ancient Hindu

I.e., meditation, sacrifice is the “bow” or the mechanism to get the soul to God. Aaaah, ooooh, mmmmm is Being. Being, Consciousness, Bliss or in ancient Hindu: Sat, Chit, Ananda. In some iterations it’s Being, Sacrifice, Bliss. Consciousness and Sacrifice are interchangeable because you’ve got to sacrifice your thoughts into order to be conscious, in order to let consciousness in.

Update: 10/8/14
– Reading over this post, this thought/feeling seemed to “bubble up from my archetype, from my soul:

“When you surrender, the life that is waiting for you will arrive.”

It feels an awful lot like Joseph Campbell’s famous quote:

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Notice how “give up” and surrender or sacrifice are synonymous. Ah, wait! I just had an Ah Ha! moment about what this means: You’ve got to quit planning on what you are going to do, just start doing the thing that you love. So you are surrendering control, control of the outcome, control of the results, and instead living, engaging inside that activity that you love to do because you love to do it in and of itself. You love the process of that activity (ie, writing, music, art, acting, but it could also be business or science, just as long as you are engaging your creative, visionary side to these activities, and of course, above all, it is something you truly love, in and of itself, and not for the money. But enough philosophizing! The meaning of the statements is to begin doing it, right now! Go start singing, go start writing, go start dancing and acting, or whatever it is you love. It doesn’t matter if people say you aren’t good enough. If you love the process, you are immune to criticism, and you don’t have an Ego that cares about the results. It cares about the activity itself. And when you are engaged in it, you are living your purpose. You’re on the edge of excitement all the time, as Joseph Campbell used to say.

So, what you are surrending is philosophy, philosophizing, talking about it, and what you are accepting, what you are leaping into, is activity. The activity will guide you, open doors, send “magical” helpers, not the philosophy. Not the thought.

Update: 3/28/13: Now that it’s Easter, and today is Maundy Thursday, if you wanted to bring the Mythology alive in your own life, you could practice, right now, for instance, sacrificing your need to hold on to the past, and your need to control the future. And then by this act, this psychological act, the irony is, you psychologically “rise above” the duality of time, and for that matter all dualities, and you arrive at an “a priori” transcendence, in which letting go and surrendering, ironically, paradoxically, wins you back your true nature, your true gift, your “sacred” treasure and power. When you sacrifice your need to control time, you wind up in a timeless world, living a transcendent life.

Update 3/26/13: I was blown away just now when I learned that the word Islam itself means, literally, “surrender.” Fate, kismet, “Wyrd” are all common archetypes in religion, and so it makes sense that this idea of “surrender”and or “sacrifice” would also be an important archetype that is found in all religion or mythology. These two fundamental archetypes are symbiotic, and almost call out to each other.

“You can’t control your destiny, Jack. You’ve got to just let it wash over you like a bad spray tan that won’t take.” – from “40 Rock”

“You’ve gotta learn to let go. You can’t try and control everything all the time.” – From Celeste and Jesse forever.

“This isn’t turning out the way I wanted it to!” – Debbie, from this is 40 exactly the 44 minute mark.

Orpheus died to himself, in order that he may live on through everybody else. What does that mean, “to die to yourself”? Think about this for a minute. It means surrender. It means letting go. It means dying to your ego, the sense that you and everything else in this world are separate. It means dying to your inner self which only worships eating and sex, and then also dying to your outer self, which has the potentiality for achievement and greatness, but only worships at the feet of social recognition, the addiction or the endorphin rush of attention, of being worshiped yourself.

Sacrifice of the flesh is metaphorical of this idea of dying to the ego. The ego is this psychological structure that is blocking out transcendence and bliss both from the outside and from with in you.
(“The Kingdom is within you and is without you. If you will know yourselves, then you’ll be known and you will know that you are the sons of the Living Father.” – Jesus, from The Gospel According to Thomas.)

Bliss is like a secret underground fountain that’s bubbling up within you naturally, and also like a ocean that’s trying to pour into you from the outside.
But ego blocks off both of these sources that naturally would be flowing, like a damn, or like something that’s blocking off the root of a tree.

So the idea of sacrifice, in part, is this willingness or this sense of psychologically dying to your ego, letting the ‘rat’ that’s in you, secretly nawing at the root of the sacred tree, the Axis Mundi, die. Or letting the “damn” or “dike” that’s in you, which is trying to control and manipulate the waters of life, nature herself, letting that psychological structure be destroyed, not giving it any more energy or “soul” food. Your sacrificing the inner desire of hunger and the outer desire of pride, in order for the waters to flow again through you, or the light to once again shine through you after having become transparent, once again, to transcendence. You’re trying to balance the truth of who you are, of where you came from (“the rag and bone shop of the heart”) without crushing the totality of the human potentiality going forward, but also without cutting off those supply lines from which this very potentiality, the Cerebral Cortex, is made from. Remember Indra had the power to kill Leviathan, the snake that was blocking out the waters of life from nourishing the world, but in doing so he also brought down his own potentiality out of pride of the very act. So one could say that sacrifice is a religious archetype that has been needed to enable life to carry on evolving, while at the same time not losing touch with its origin, its essence, it’s soul.

Paul: “Wouldn’t you rather have me around for less years and I’m incredibly happy rather than longer and I’m miserable?”
Debbie: “Yes, and I just realized that just now!” – This is 40 – 47:15

“I guess the party didn’t turn out like you had planned.”
“Yeah, but it was a good party.”

Here’s another good example of an everyday way of putting this idea into practice: Sacrifice your Ego’s need for attention, and instead put that same energy in the direction of your bliss, you’re “calling”, the things or thing that makes you happy in and of itself, and not because it makes you money or gets you attention (Social Reward). In this post I have used “Ego” and “Flesh” sort of interchangably both in the ideas of “Dying to the Ego” and “Dying to the Flesh.” I think there are two good reasons for the comparison: 1) In Hindu, it is the outward, most superficial “body” of all of our “bodies” that is the most cut off from spirit (the inner body, “Atman”) and needs “religion” (re-linking) back to the soul and 2) If you think about your everyday life, its the experience of your body, the impulses of the flesh, and the experience of the senses that most feed this “illusion” of ‘Ego’.

The ideas of Yoga and Meditation are Eastern exercises in metaphorically “Dying to the Ego” or “Dying to the Flesh.” It’s not that you want to really die to your flesh. It’s that you want to think of the metaphor, the psychological aspect of it. The purpose here is to rebalance psychologically so that you are experiencing the impulses of the “subtle” body (Soul) at least as strongly, or some would say more dominantly, than you are experiencing the impulses of the “Ego Body.”

Neither are wrong. Both are natural. And in a way, the aspirations of a “New Religion” going forward would perhaps be a Unification or “Marriage” of these two separate bodies. That may be the true, ultimate life experience and fulfillment. In a way it’s sort of like the current goal of cutting edge physics is to “Marry” if you will Quantum Theory (Metaphorical of the Subtle Body) and Relativity (Metaphorical of the Physical Body).

I just realized that this idea of “Destiny” and “Letting go” or “Surrender” or in our terms here, “Sacrifice” (When thought of as ‘sacrificing’ your need to control) have a lot in common, that they almost are born from each other. So, if you sacrifice your Ego, then your true Destiny will take over, and then your life’s adventure will be automatic. “It” will begin. You won’t have to try. It’ll be like getting on a ride at Disney World.

The question I still have, that’s burning inside me, is how does one, in practical terms, in terms of your everyday life, actually “Die to Yourself” or “Die to Your Ego”? That’s the question that’s burning in me: how do you do this metaphorically in the everyday, “real” world of your life?

“I never meant for any of this to happen, but I’m glad it did,” Spade’s character in The Wrong Missy [-06:46]