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Modern-Day Myths | 現代神話

Learning models and development frameworks have been a staple of my education - it dawned on me this July however, that models like the ones I'm learning serve as our modern-day myths continuing the age-old attempt to give metaphorical form to the transcendent mysteries of life. 

I invite you to explore with me the meaning-making of mythology and their relevance to our individual & collective journey.

The Function of Myth

Myths are metaphors for experiencing the spiritual potentiality of human life, they are the conceptual structures that define our reality; and as social cultures evolve, the myths we hold evolve as well.

Myths serve three primary functions:

  1. To resonate our real life experiences with our innermost being, the transcendent.  Myths open the mind and heart to the utter wonder of being alive, aware and fulfilled.  in the words of the poet Novalis “the seat of the soul is where the inner and outer worlds meet.”
  2. To validate a social order.  Myths serve society an appealing veneer of rationality, converting that which is utterly confusing, chaotic, and uncontrollable to what seems orderly, sane, and purposeful.
  3. To teach how to live a human life under any circumstance. Myths integrate the individual into his culture and the culture into the field of nature.  

Myths use things we can visualize to think, talk and reason about what we cannot visualize.


The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), a foremost scholar on the history of mythology and the inspiration for this newsletter, believed that by identifying with the myth (and the archetypal element at its core), our lives could open up (and inward) to reveal a rich symphony of experiences.  

Archetypes such as the hero's journey can serve as a template for dealing with life experiences and as a guide for self-fulfillment.  The journey includes:

  1. The Call to Adventure - The unexpected call to action.
  2. Supernatural Aid - The helper figure that prepares the hero in some way for the trials to come.
  3. The Threshold - The point in the story where the hero stands poised to enter a mysterious new world.
  4. The Trials - The trials and ordeals the hero must endure.
  5. The Return - Having completed the trials the hero brings back a boon to his society.

The hero usually gives his or her life to something bigger than oneself and is a founder of something: a new age, religion, city or way of life.  Because to found something new, one needs to leave the old and go in quest of the seed idea that will have the potential to bring forth a new idea.  When we are on the path of following our heart (metaphor) instead of the rules of society, then doors will open up for us (Supernatural Aid) and the universe will give us the help we need.  Of course, the trials and ordeals may be difficult, even deadly.  As Campbell said, "Heavy winds blow," but we know that we will return with some enrichment, and probably to another adventure awaiting.  This quest shows that man knows there is an eternal life in us, and the depth & breadth of your life is much deeper and broader than normally thought, and the actuality of one’s perception of existence is but a fraction of what is really within.  

All mythologies give us the same essential quest: you leave the world that you're in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited. Then comes the problem either of staying with that, and letting the world drop off, or returning with that boon and trying to hold on to it as you move back into your social world again.  This is analogous to the U journey yet rather than making heroes out of our leaders, the U journey gives form for our own hero’s journey.  Campbell advised similarly to “follow your bliss.”


The Interactions of Inner & Outer Dimensions

Facilitators of all kinds are needed to enable the healthy interaction between inner and outer dimensions.  Freud’s observed that myths are like public dreams - whereas dreams are private myths.  Carl Jung interpreted this view differently that our outward-oriented consciousness so busily addressing the demands of the day, can easily lose touch with inward dynamics - and that through myths and dreams we can learn to know and come to terms with the greater horizon of our own deeper and wiser inward self.  What is required, states Jung, is a dialogue, not a fixture at either pole, but a dialogue by way of symbolic forms put forth from the unconscious mind and recognized by the conscious in continuous interaction.

One of Campbell’s core insights from mythology is that we are more than we think we are. There are dimensions of our being and a potential for realization and consciousness that are not included in our standard concept of self.  Our life is much deeper and broader than we conceive it to be and therefore what you are living is but a fractional inkling of what is really within us.  When we experience the depth and breadth of life, we suddenly can see that all models, be they religious or academic, are talking of the same transcendent dimension - what I believe Theory U refers to as “presence” - and as we awaken our inner knowing of our place in the interdependent web of life and realize that all of reality is a manifestation of our own creation we can consider our own self-awareness as a core capacity of 21st-century leadership.

Newsletter reference:  Campbell, Joseph.  Myths to Live By.  New York: Penguin Compass, 1972.

Written by Keli Yen for the CP Yen Foundation's Dialogue Newsletter:



在今年七月的對話新訊息,我要邀請大家一同來探索神話所要表達的意義,以及神話對於個人、團體生命歷程所帶來的關聯性。 神話的功能


神話有三個主要功能: 一、與我們真實生活內心最深處渴望的超越共鳴







英雄之旅約瑟夫.坎貝爾(Joseph Campbell),他是神話學上一位最重要的學者。本期對話新訊息的靈感就是來於他的想法,他相信如果能夠融會貫通神話內涵(以及核心典型元素),就能使我們的生活更開放(也更向內探索),進而展開豐富和諧的經驗。



  • 冒險的召喚:非預期的召喚,能夠產生行動。
  • 超自然援助:超自然神力幫助英雄接受考驗。
  • 關鍵點:故事裡的英雄準備好進入一個神秘的新世界。
  • 大考驗:英雄必須忍受的考驗與苦難。
  • 凱旋而歸:英雄戰勝考驗,凱旋歸來並得到恩賜造福社會。


 當然,考驗和苦難的過程可能是艱難的,甚至是致命的。正如坎貝爾所言:「狂風的打擊」。但我們知道通過考驗後,將會得到豐盛的收穫;也有可能即將有另一個冒險正等待我們去開創。 如此對生命的追求,也顯現人類體會到生命是永不休止的。每個人真實生命的廣度與深度,其實是遠超過世俗的想法;而生命本身對於存在的看法,也不過是浩瀚宇宙中的一小部分。



引導師的角色,必須要能促使個人在內外在有良好、健康的互動。奧地利精神分析學家弗洛伊德(Sigmund Freud)認為,神話就如同「公共夢想」,而夢想則像是「個人的神話」。瑞士心理學家榮格(Carl Gustav Jung)則有不同的詮釋,他認為我們外在導向的意識,每天繁忙處理許多要求,所以很容易便失去與自己內在動能的接觸,因此透過神話與夢想,我們就可以去學習理解自己,並擁有更深層、智慧的內在自我,與這種更廣闊的生命視野共處。然而,生命中有什麼是必要的?榮格認為是一個「對話」,以象徵性的形式來進行對話,而不是固守於內、外在任何一端,它是從潛意識萌芽之後,有意識的、持續不斷地與自我內、外在進行互動與對話。



原文參考資料:Campbell, Joseph. Myths to Live By. New York: Penguin Compass, 1972.



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