One of the great thinkers of our time is the mythologist Dr. Joseph Campbell. His work involved him with studying the great stories, the collective dreams, of everyone from the Native Americans to Australian Bushmen to South American Amazons to modern day Westerners. Despite the radical diversity of these peoples, Dr. Campbell discovered that there is an amazing similarity in how people understand the meaning of life.
This is not to say that everyone agrees on every detail. Far from it. There are some differences in content and expression. But a fair reading of the experiences and beliefs of our common humanity leaves one with a great sense of our similarities. This should not surprise us. Do we not believe that there is only one “God” and are not our differences rather trivial when compared to our brains and central nervous systems?
If we had to come up with the bottom line of our common beliefs and experiences, what would they be? It seems that there are two broad points upon which all cultures find common ground: 1) the task of life is to identify not solely with the body, but with the consciousness of which the body is only a vehicle; and 2) there is a dimension of reality supporting and continually giving birth to the reality of everyday life. Putting that in even simpler terms, one could say that everyone needs to find their own soul and plug into a reality greater than the world of the five senses.
What precisely is that reality masquerading behind the obvious? At this point, we get into belief systems, religions, and the world of alternative explanations. What follows is a list of some of the ancient and modern attempts to explain this hidden reality. As you think about these explanations, ask yourself: are these really all that different from one another or is it more a case of semantics?
- Philosophy: “elan vital” (the life force)
- Plato: ideal forms (to which humans are molded)
- Hippocrates: “vis medicatrix naturae” ( the healing force of nature)
- Hermes Trismegistus: telesma
- Galen: pneuma
- Hindus (yogis): prana
- Chinese: chi
- Sufis: baraka
- Hebrews: ruach
- Christians: Holy Spirit
- Polynesians: mana
- Metaphysics: universal consciousness
- Teilhard de Chardin: radial energy
- Jung: collective unconscious
- New Age Christianity: Christ consciousness
Again, not everyone here is saying exactly the same thing. But what truly excites me and encourages me is our common humanity and the universal recognition of a greater Reality.
Next posting: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
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