This project is about creating change when the stories that underlie the belief system of our civilization block change, making the usual avenues for change useless; stories leading to societal and ecological collapse, which in the end may be necessary to force change but not to our liking; old and dying stories which mean less and less to us as we live our lives; a project about creating new stories and meaning.
Stories (including myths, theories) form the ground for human life. They tell us where we have come from, who we are in the present and where we’re going in the future. Over time a set of stories with common threads can gradually become “truths” forming the belief system of an individual, a society, even a civilization. Individual and societal life then become organized around these beliefs. Living in the midst of this belief system one does not typically question it’s underlying stories as this has a destabilizing effect on the life of an individual and society. And yet if there is one constant in life it is that nothing stays the same, things change, and so beliefs change too. There are forces, I’ll call them “nature”, constantly at work that move life inexorably towards something new. Having observed our present belief system and its impact on the natural world and each other for a long time now it seems to me that our civilization is at the proverbial crossroads or interregnum between two sets of stories or paradigms, the first we know at least somewhat, the second is yet to be.
Human consciousness has evolved over time from a participation mystique or unconscious oneness with nature to our present limited consciousness based on our ego’s perception of the world. This development culminated in the Enlightenment’s stories of reason and logic or rationality which defined a new way to relate to the world and each other. Being rational requires the individual to step back from something, for example nature, to observe and analyze it from a distance. This psychological stance creates perspective and also a form of psychological separation or duality. The observer becomes the subject, the observed becomes the object or other. Through this process human beings could take something whole and reduce it to its seeming parts to understand this “others” underlying physical nature and functions. Over time this process of perception gradually changed how we think and significantly altered the way we literally see and interpret the world around us through brain plasticity.
This new way of seeing produced new creations, the scientific method, technology and industrialization, which human society describes as progress. What we didn’t see was the unconscious shadow of our progress. For example the development of the scientific method deepened the separation between humanity and the the natural world. As “scientific thinking” spread into general society it became a commonly held sense or truth, of which humanity was mostly unaware, that the natural world was just matter, more like a machine, purposeless beyond a certain instinctive nature and without a soul. Rather than our being aware we were relating to the world through a narrow set of theories/stories that distorted what we were seeing, this unconsciously held “truth” became a dogmatic part of our belief system.
Once we came unconsciously to this way of seeing the world and each other it was only a matter of time before the separation and the control of life it seemed to afford became a problem. Although humanity had gained a measure of consciousness, and a certain degree of “progress” we lost most of our pre-Enlightenment sense of the Earth having a soul and meaning in its own right on one hand and by so doing lost the sense of our own souls unique belonging in the world on the other. In the end humanity gained a measure of consciousness separate from the primordial matrix and lost the sense of our deep connection and interdependence within nature.
As I wrote earlier stories/theories form the basis for belief systems. They also have a lifecycle just as everything in our world and the cosmos do as well. Stories are birthed, they grow and mature, they age and then die, in relation to human life. There is a moment in time in the stream of human consciousness where a set of stories seem to have a resonance that takes hold. They begin to be perceived as having a numinosity or great relevance and meaning that the old dying stories have lost. Rather than the old stories losing meaning in and of themselves it is that human consciousness has evolved and needs to move on, to change. So in a sense the older stories having provided new meaning for humans in the past no longer resonate for us in the present and they pass on. The greater meaning found in new stories infuses individuals and society with a libidinal energy and enthusiasm which creates its own momentum, leading to a new belief system and potentially a new paradigm or world view. Massive change begins.
Humanity is in the midst of such a change. After many years of a masculine perspective or patriarchy culminating in rationalism dominating our belief systems, long suppressed feminine/Earth/body/soul archetypal energy is now in ascendance. In essence humanity is attempting to return to the ground of its own being, to what was rejected, which now has a growing numinosity. New stories are being written and theories formed that explore and/or incorporate the feminine in a wide range of fields such as science , the arts and psychology. And yet we are not out of the woods by any means. Our civilization’s complex systems of economics, technology, and science along with a massive physical infrastructure creates its own inertia to change. And there is another path that humanity is contemplating, one that portrays itself as being a new story but actually extends and deepens what we already believe- AI or artificial intelligence and the Singularity.
How then do new stories arise? Where did the stories that formed the Enlightenment come from? It is in these two statements where the greatest impact of our present world view is felt. In essence reason and logic and our view of the natural world being mainly a soulless machine cuts humanity off from the source of something new. This source can be found where it always has been, within each of us, in our depths, where it lies hidden from view waiting to be related to. The new is also found in the natural world which is waiting for our remembrance of nature’s soul and of our belonging and interdependence within it. It becomes the task of artists, that is, anyone willing to relate with humility to their own depths and the depths of nature, to birth the new. By relating to dreams, synchronicities, visions, body/heart speech and in listening to the natural world each individual can connect with the whispers of something new. Out of this relational resonance, through their imagination or story making capacity, these artists can create new stories for the future. They cannot know where these stories will take us and so must learn to embrace uncertainty as an inherent part of the process.
Keats spoke of this poetically when he finished his poem “Ode to Psyche” in this way:
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!
John Keats, 1819
This is the essence behind the New Stories Project. Humanity is between stories. The natural world is telling us our modern civilization has gone too far. I suspect in their hearts many human beings know this too, my heart certainly feels it is so. Something different is needed to bridge into what comes next.
About three years ago I had the following dream:
I am walking in the country-side at dusk along an earth road beside some barren rocky fields. I hear noise ahead of me and I quicken my pace curiously anxious. As I get closer I see that I am approaching the edge of a cliff and beyond, the ocean. As I come to the edge I see a large crescent shaped bay below me and to my right. To my horror I see thousands of sea creatures in the bay, they are dying in the water and as they wash up on shore. Then I hear a male voice I trust, who sometimes takes part in my dreams, say “All the creatures of the sea are dying. Mike, you need to help them.” I wake up.
My response to this imperative, to what I call Mystery or something other, has been to create The New Stories Project.
What We Will Do
The New Stories Project has four areas of exploration for individuals:
- Learn depth work processes to access and invite Mystery and Otherness in oneself.
- Cultivate the resonance of Mystery and the pull of the imaginative story mind in its multiple forms.
- Out of the resonance create or birth something new through art, writing, and movement etc,.
- Bring your new “story” to the village/world.
We will use dreams, body/heart speech, art, movement, time in nature, play and other modes to explore and experience the processes described above. And I suspect we’ll have some fun too.
*Please note that reason and logic are part of us now, part of our functioning consciousness. Human beings cannot reject this way of seeing as this would likely lead to a regression in consciousness. Rather rationalism needs to be seen for what it has become, a way of perceiving the world that is narrow, grossly one-sided and dominating our beliefs excessively.
**In the foregoing I have tried to distill a large amount of writing from many authors about a complex topic into a few short paragraphs. If you would like to explore this area more I would be happy to provide a number of sources to do so.
Workshops will follow soon.