I have been reading a bunch of mythology books over break. One of the books was a commentary and reinterpretation of the story of The Argonauts. This is the story of Jason and the golden fleece among other things, if that jogs any memories.
The commentary mentioned that the story of the Argonauts is in part a story of rescuing a spirit. The argonauts are bringing the body of a dead man home. This idea idea of spirit retrieval or soul retrieval also appears in many of my readings in psychology (generally Jungian inspired). We could think of psychology as a type of soul retrieval and the unconscious as a sort of underworld.
People say the moderns (or us) have psychology and the ancients had mythology. I really don’t know what this means. It sounds good though. I would love to unpack it in a later blog post. But this relationship between psychology and mythology is nothing new -after all one of the founding theories of psychology – the Oedipal complex is from greek mythology.
What most interests me here is the notion of a journey. What kinds of journeys can we go on. There is the Hero’s Journey – this is the most famous- but it is about the person going on the journey or the transformative effect of the journey. The journey transforms those that go on it into a hero – whatever that is – the archetype of a well integrated adult in the specific society we are talking about.
But what kinds of journeys can we go on? This to me is more interesting. The journey itself instead of the transformation at the end of the journey. And to say that the journey transforms one in to a hero, is kind of empty of meaning – since it is so culturally specific.
Focusing on the kind of journey opens up the journey to people who are shut out of the hero journey such as women or other subalterns. I cannot believe I found a good use for the term subaltern.
Here we have a journey to find a soul, there are journeys to slay a beast (over come fears), there are journeys to find a treasure (maybe find purpose), journeys to find a home, journeys to return to a home. I’m sure someone has made a taxonomy of journeys, but what sorts of journeys are available today that were not available in the time of the argonauts – or are journeys universal?