Friday, September 29, 2017

DAVE ALBER GUEST POST #blog 6 of 6 The Myths Of The Crow (Apsaalooke) People #NorthAmerica #native #mythology

Heart Of Myth Kindle Edition Amazon


Hello Blogosphere!

I’m Dave Alber, the guest blogger for September on Stephanie Pope’s blog.

In previous blogs… I introduced the core grammar of myth, described the alchemical nature of myth, as well as the ecological vision of polytheistic myth. We took a look at some of the characteristics of the mythology of Native North America.

In The Heart of Myth: Wisdom Stories from Endangered People, we explore the myths of six geographic regions (North America, Arctic, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceana.) Beginning with North America, lets take a look at one specific community of people in North America and their myth of world creation.

[What follows is from The Heart of Myth.] 

Chapter 1—Crow (Apsaalooke): The Earth Diver

The Crow people call themselves the Apsaalooke, meaning “people of the large beaked bird,” after a mythological trickster in their oral tradition.[1] Many modern Apsaalooke tell their history in mythological terms. “We know where we came from, we know where we’ve been, and we know whom we are,” states the Crow Nation website:

We came through three transitions to become who we are. We were (Awaakiiwilaxpaake) People of the Earth, we were all one mankind, we became (Biiluke) on Our Side, we became (Awashe) Earthen Lodges, and we became Apsaalooke some 2000 years ago.[2]

The ancestors of the Crow had varied life ways including hunting, gathering, and farming, stories of which survive today in cultural memory. In the 1400s, under the leadership of the legendary ancestor, No-vitals, the Crow people migrated to the Great Plains culture area.[3] The Native Americans of the Great Plains lived primarily through large game hunting, particularly the buffalo, which people trapped in box canyons or stampeded off cliffs. Small family tribes lived in portable tepees covered with buffalo skins, each tepee being a symbol of the people’s relationship with the land. “The tepee is a spiritual habitat that symbolically embraces her occupants as a mother.”[4] With the decline of the buffalo in the nineteenth century, the Crow people worked with the United States to integrate into the European American culture.[5] Loss of traditional lands has been a major threat to the Crow community. Today most Crow people live on their reservation in south central Montana.[6] Many see their children’s education as key to their cultural survival. For example, the Crow or Apsaalooke language is vigorously maintained and taught in Crow schools. This Siouan language is one of the most widely spoken Native American languages.[7] Another vital concern is the preservation of sacred lands. Oil drilling in Montana’s Valley of the Chiefs, for example, endangers a religious site containing the largest Native American collection of rock art.[8]

Myth: The Earth Diver

In the beginning, there was just That Old Man Who Did Everything wandering around. And it seemed to him that there was only his awareness . . . his attention . . . his presence. He noticed the water below him, stretching out for as far as he could see. But soon there were voices and circular ripples on the surface of the water. He listened.

[1] Grim, John A. and Magdalene Mocassin Top. “The Crow/ Apsaalooke in Montana.” Endangered Peoples of North America. Ed. Tom Greaves. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002. p. 23.
[2] From the Official Site of the Crow Tribe: Apsaalooke Nation. Retrieved 12-30-08.
[3] Medicine Crow, Joseph. The Crow Indians’ Own Stories. Lincoln: U. of Nebraska P., 2000. p. 23.
[4] Grim, p. 23-4, 29. George Bird Grinnell relates a Blackfoot myth of the buffalo maiden in his Blackfoot Lodge Tales. Joseph Campbell retells the myth in his Historical Atlas of World Mythology, Vol. 1, Part 2, and again in “The Message of the Myth” segment of The Power of Myth series.
[5] Grim. p. 24.
[6] Ibid. p. 23.
[7] 4,280 speakers in 1990 U.S. census. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 12-30-08.
[8] Endangered Peoples of the World. Sierra Club: Montana Chapter website. Retrieved 12-30-08.

In the beginning, there was just That Old Man Who Did Everything wandering around. And it seemed to him that there was only his awareness . . . his attention . . . his presence. He noticed the water below him, stretching out for as far as he could see. But soon there were voices and circular ripples on the surface of the water. He listened.

“I suppose it’s just us.”
“Yeah, there is no one else here.”

That Old Man Who Did Everything followed the voices and the ripples in the water to their center, where he saw four ducks. Two were blue-eyed ducks and two were smaller red-eyed ducks. The small red-eyed ducks had just finished talking. On seeing someone other than themselves they appeared shocked and even a bit embarrassed for just having said that there was no one else about.

“Ha,” laughed That Old Man Who Did Everything. “Did you really believe that you were alone? I am here, too.”

The big blue-eyed ducks said, “Our hearts told us that there were others and we believed.”

“Yes,” smiled That Old Man Who Did Everything. “Tell me what your hearts say to you.”

“Our hearts say that there is something below the water.”

“Yes,” said That Old Man Who Did Everything. “You can dive and swim through the water. Why don’t you dive down, down, down and see what is there?”

So, the first blue-eyed duck dove down, down, down into the water. The others waited on the surface. Their friend had been gone a long time. “Maybe he is drowning,” said the second big duck.

“No,” said one of the two smaller ducks. “He’s a good swimmer. He’ll be fine.”

At last, with a gasp, the big duck broke the surface of the water. The other ducks waited for him to catch his breath.

“Well?” asked That Old Man Who Did Everything. “What did you find?”

“Just water, liquid currents pushing me to and fro, water above, water below.”

“Hmmm,” said That Old Man Who Did Everything. He pondered the duck’s words.

The second big duck flapped his wings on the water’s surface. “I’m sure I can make it. I’m going to find out what’s below all this water.” And so, he dove down, down, down into the deep water and was gone a long, long, long time. That Old Man Who Did Everything waited with the ducks and they waited together for a long, long time.

“I don’t know if he is still alive,” said the first big blue-eyed duck.
“What does your heart tell you?” asked That Old Man Who Did Everything.
“He’s alive,” said the first small duck. “Look!”

He pointed where the surface of the water broke with feathers, a winged body, frantic splashing, and panting. The others waited for their friend to catch his breath.
After a time, he spoke,

“I don’t know what there is down there. It seems to be all water.”
The first of the smaller red-eyed duck said,

“These ducks are too big to reach the bottom. I’ll dive down this time. I know I’ll make it!”
That Old Man Who Did Everything contemplated those words.

“You are small,” he said. “So be careful not to go beyond the capacities of your body. Bring awareness with you as you dive, maintain that awareness in the depths, lest you should black out and drown. Remember to be aware in the depths. I should be very happy to see you safely return to the surface.”
The small red-eyed duck took a deep breath and dove down, down, down into the depths of the water. Down, down, down he dove. On the surface, his friends waited. They looked around at each other and waited, waited, waited.

Finally, the small duck broke the surface of the water. He panted, but was quick to catch his breath.

“Aha,” cried That Old Man Who Did Everything. “Tell me what did you find?”

The small red-eyed duck said, “I swam down, down, down into the depths. Down, down, and down. And then my head struck something. And so, I placed that thing in my bill and carried it up to the surface.

He handed That Old Man Who Did Everything a small plant.

That Old Man Who Did Everything turned the plant over in his hands as he eyed it intently.

“Well, what your heart directly knew you have found through experience to be true,” he said, then turned to the second small red-eyed bird. “Now, you dive down, little brother, your friends are too tired. Beneath the water you will find something hard . . . and maybe beneath that there will be something soft. Take that soft something and place it in your bill. Bring it up to the surface.”

The fourth duck dove down, down, down into the water. He dove deeper, deeper, and deeper. Eventually, he struck something hard. He pressed his feet into it and broke that surface below. Deeper and deeper he went. His feet were now in something sticky and soft. He filled his beak with this soft something. Blowing air out of the nose holes in his beak, he rose to the surface. Up, up, up he rose and splashed on the surface.

“Aha,” That Old Man Who Did Everything said, “Our friend.”

The fourth duck was exhausted. He took the soft earth out of his beak and placed it in That Old Man Who Did Everything’s hands.

That Old Man Who Did Everything felt the earth in his hands. He looked at it, tasted it, and smelled it. 

“This is earth,” he said. “Creation can now begin.”

So, That Old Man Who Did Everything, with the aid of the ducks, divided the earth into four quarters . . . and directed the course of water on the land . . . and placed trees and living plants about . . . and arranged the sky above it all . . . and above the above they placed the sun, moon, and stars. That Old Man Who Did Everything addressed the ducks, “You have wings to fly in the air, feet to walk on land, and sleek bodies capable of swimming in the water. You embody this story of creation and transmit its knowledge in your flying, diving, and even in your most easygoing gestures. In the beginning, I brought my awareness to you. When men bring their awareness to you they will remember your story and progressively (or maybe all at once) attain knowledge of creation.


Dave Alber is the author of To the DawnMyth & Medium, and Alien Sex in Silicon Valley. His book The Heart of Myth is a global anthology of living myth that unpacks the grammar of world mythology. His website is and his English learning products are at


What Is Myth For You?

Blog 2

What Is The Core Grammar of Mythology?

Blog 3

What Is The Alchemy Of Myth?

Blog 4

What Is The Ecological Vision Of Myth

Blog 5
The Myths Of Native North America

Blog 6
The Myths Of The Crow (Apsaalooke) People

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

DAVE ALBER GUEST POST The Myths Of Native North America #mythology #September #blog Heart Of Myth Kindle Edition Amazon

Heart Of Myth Kindle Edition Amazon

The Myths of Native North America
Hello Blogosphere!

I’m Dave Alber, the guest blogger for September on Stephanie Pope’s blog.

In previous blogs… I introduced the core grammar of myth, described the alchemical nature of myth, as well as the ecological vision of polytheistic myth. Now lets take a look at one geographical region and see how these attributes of myth apply.
In The Heart of Myth: Wisdom Stories from Endangered People, we explore the myths of six geographic regions (North America, Arctic, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceana.) Let’s begin with North America.

[The following is from The Heart Of Myth

Section 1: North America

Hear me, four quarters of the world—a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is! Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. With your power only can I face the winds.[1]

We start our journey in the spiritual landscape of North America, where every Native American ceremony gives evidence to the spiritual recognition of balance—for each Native American ceremony begins with a salutation to the four directions. No less than the Ancient Greeks’ centering themselves within cardinal virtues, the Native American salutation is a totalizing invocation of harmony. Hartley Burr Alexander writes of Native American mandalas, artistic representations of visualization practices that express the cosmos invoked in their salutary prayers:

As the colours, so the elements are related to the Quarters: to the North belongs the air, element of wind and breath, from it come the strong winter winds; the West is characterized by water, for in the Pueblo land rains sweep in from the Pacific; fire is of the South; while the earth and the seeds of life which fructify the earth are of the East.[2]

The polytheistic worldview of Native Americans harmoniously integrates the paradoxes of simultaneous material and spiritual realities as well as an Ultimate Reality (referred to as Wakan-Tanka, Awoawilonas, Tirawa, May Wah-Kon-Tah, Tatanga Mani, Usen, a’nehimu, the Great Spirit, Grandfather, or the Creator)[3] that expresses itself through diverse manifestations. Indeed, Native Americans are exemplary as a devotional people who accept life’s universal paradoxes by rising above all apparent conflicts of duality. Sympathetic awareness, the recognition of the heart is, for Native Americans, the guide to this devotional worldview. For example, “Zuni prayers to the directions begin and end with reverence given to the ‘Middle Place’ which is also related to the ‘heart or navel of the world.’”[4] The elaborate mandalas of the Zuni and Hopi that develop their social planning must be understood as projections through this “Middle Place” of the Eternal powers of the mythological dimension.[5] Humanities role, therefore, is seen as that of a mediator of these raw universal energies into the world. Likewise, a sacred circle of the Sioux is divided into the elemental powers of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, and an Omaha creation story similarly relates, “Suddenly from the midst of the water uprose a great rock. It burst into flames and the waters floated into the air in clouds.”[6] From a materialistic observation, the elemental myth merely describes cosmological phenomena, yet, like any elemental myth in the Native American tradition, it presents a map for alchemical transformations of consciousness.

As a mediator of universal energies, every human being is a transforming agent. The impacts on our environment tell us as much. However, the act of transformation begins with the spiritual practitioner’s own consciousness. Native American spirituality is rich with the alchemical recognition of the mutability of consciousness. As the Zuni myth The Beginning of Newness relates:

Now like all the surpassing beings the Earth-mother and the Sky-father were changeable, even as smoke in the wind; transmutable at thought, manifesting themselves in any form at will, like as dancers may by mask-making.

In the Omaha ceremonial myth of the sacred pole, during a time of community conflict, a glowing tree is discovered in the forest. “The Thunder birds come and go upon this tree, making a trail of fire that leaves four paths on the burnt grass that stretch toward the four Winds.”[7] Furthermore, in the myth, the Omaha called the tree “a human being, and fastened a scalp lock to it for hair.”[8] The alchemical potential of human beings (whether individually or culturally realized and expressed) only makes itself known when the center is recognized—when balance is achieved. In the Native American mythological worldview this is achieved through maintaining awareness of one’s physical, emotional, and mental experiences in relation to the windy drag of the four cardinal powers.

Thus, the spiritual worldview of Native Americans has its feet planted firmly on the ground. And what is the ground of existence but something that is vigorously alive? Many of North America’s indigenous peoples still call the land Turtle Island. The myth The Woman Who Fell From the Sky tells why this is so. The myth also relates the creation of the landscape and its animals from the efforts of two brothers of differing temperament. Mudjikiwis is another story of brothers, one of which encounters four spiritual guides on his journey to the home of his lost wife—a being of transformative power—a Thunder bird.

The diversity of Energy’s manifestation in Native American mythology is consistently recognized as something to be celebrated. And what opens the heart and unites all people in the recognition of our ultimate sameness—our one heart—more so than laughter? Horned Toad Meets the Giants invites us to participate in the mythological world, not from the forced habit of the solemn misperception of separateness, but rather from the joyous commonality of recognition and celebration in life’s hilarious absurdity. 


[1] Neihardt, John G. and Nicolas Black Elk. Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. Lincoln: U. of Nebraska P., 2000. p. 4.
[2] Alexander, Hartley Burr, Ph.D.. The Mythology of All Races: North America. New York: Cooper Square Pub., 1964. p. 186.
[3] Smith, Huston. A Seat at the Table: Huston Smith In Conversation With Native Americans on Religious Freedom. Ed. Phil Cousineau. Berkeley: U. of California P., 2006. p. xix.
[4] Alexander. p. 187.
[5] Ibid. pp. 185–7.
[6] Ibid. p. 98.
[7] Ibid. p. 100.
[8] Ibid. p. 100.


In the next blog… we examine one group of polytheistic people from the Native American tradition — the Crow (Apsaalooke) people — exploring their culture and living myths.


Dave Alber is the author of To the DawnMyth & Medium, and Alien Sex in Silicon Valley. His book The Heart of Myth is a global anthology of living myth that unpacks the grammar of world mythology. His website is and his English learning products are at


Sunday, September 24, 2017

DAVE ALBER GUEST POST: What is the Ecological Vision of Myth? #September #blog #mythology #ecology #SundayMorning

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What is the Ecological Vision of Myth?

Production, development, growth, and consumption are all on the rise. We hate to imagine the economy behaving otherwise. And we pretend that this stage in the economic cycle is the norm. Why do we pretend?     -Dave Alber,  "The Sustainable Vision of Endangered Societies"

Hello Blogosphere!

I’m Dave Alber, the guest blogger for September on Stephanie Pope’s blog.
In previous blogs… I introduced the core grammar of myth and described the alchemical nature of myth… now lets consider the moral and philosophical implications of participating in a unified world recognized within the awareness-heart, empathy as a synthetic process of awareness connecting us all together.

How can we treat apparent “others” within a worldview that recognizes

1.) everything as divine and
2.) everything as an expression of a unified field of being.

It’s a quandary pondered in the essay “Guest Rituals”.
In The Heart of Myth: Wisdom Stories from Endangered People, we see that across the globe, the polytheistic world has resolved the problem presented by the mystical revelation along ecological lines, because there are sustainable vision underlying the myths of indigenous people across many continents.

The 2nd day of Tihar festival is Kukur Tihar, a day when
dogs are celebrated as a manifestation of the divine

follows is from The Heart of Myth.]

The Sustainable Vision
              of Endangered Societies

No economist, industrialist, or politician would ever suggest that the earth’s resources might be consumed indefinitely at their present rate. Yet, looking at the media, the compulsion to consume appears paramount, while the Classical virtue of temperance is nowhere to be seen. Production, development, growth, and consumption are all on the rise. We hate to imagine the economy behaving otherwise. And we pretend that this stage in the economic cycle is the norm. Why do we pretend? Perhaps at some deep level, Western Culture does not believe in limits. Perhaps that is its key virtue, inspiring discoverers and adventurers to push the envelope in all directions. That is the song we like to hear, is it not? It is the theme of the DVD we rent. All limits are surpassed; all conventions are broken; the young lovers escape the traditional values that confine them. Yet, limits are also what define and give context to every freedom.

Nevertheless, on realizing the dangers of the global civilization’s unsustainable economic vision, many people have looked to other models—other visions offering a more workable human future. Surprisingly, sustainable visions of human culture are in abundance. In seeking them, we find ourselves immediately upon the “red road” of plentitude. Many small societies have maintained sustainable modes of living for thousands of years. Historically, their vision has been the norm—ours the exception. As Jerry Mander states in Paradigm Wars: Indigenous People’s Resistance to Globalization:

. . . it is no small irony that the very reason that native peoples have become such prime targets for global corporations and their intrinsic drives is exactly because most indigenous peoples have been so very successful over millennia at maintaining cultures, economies, worldviews and practices that are not built upon some ideal of economic growth or short-term profit-

Therefore, there is not only a moral imperative to protect the cultures threatened by economic shortsightedness, but also an imperative of ultimate practicality. “In more ways than one, indigenous issues are the frontier issues of our time.” Mander explains:

They deal with geographic frontier struggles where the larger, destructive globalization process attempts to suck up the last living domains on the planet—its life forms, its basic resources, its peoples—in the empty cause of short-term wealth accumulation. And it is also a frontier struggle in conceptual terms: What are the values that can sustain us for the future? What are the worldviews that can keep the earth alive? How are we to live on behalf of coming generations of human beings and the larger community of beings and creatures?[2]

For global civilization to “progress” on its present course, people must be exploited like “resources.” By contrast, the core mode of perception of polytheistic communities—the knowing of the heart—is a vigorous safeguard against such a systemic cultural imbalance. The knowing of the heart is congruent with the great traditions of Western Humanism and is the safest way for individuals within the system-driven civilization to sustain the fragile candle of their
fullest humanity.

[1] Mander, Jerry and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. Paradigm Wars: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Globalization. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2006. p. 4.
[2] Ibid. p. 10.

The Organization of The Heart of Myth

Following some of the logic of Greenwood Press’s The Endangered Peoples of the World Series, the polytheistic cultures in The Heart of Myth are organized into six sections which align with a geographic region: North America, the Arctic, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The Heart of Myth describes several communities from within each region and relates their mythological narratives.

Choosing the Cultures in The Heart of Myth

In choosing the cultures of this book, diversity was of key interest. To use Africa as an example, oftentimes when discussing African mythology, the Yoruba mythology that made its way west to the American continents and Caribbean islands due to the slave trade is discussed as representing the varied mythologies of this vast continent. However, African culture and mythology is much more diverse. Speaking collectively of African mythology makes about as much sense as speaking collectively of Asian mythology: as though the mythologies of India’s Vedas, Puranas, epics, regional and folk traditions; Tibet’s Bonpo and Buddhism; Nepal’s syncretic spirituality; China’s Taoism; Japan’s Shinto; and South East Asia’s diverse mixture of indigenous traditions and most of the traditions mentioned above would so conveniently fit into a single category. The importance of highlighting this diversity is precisely because those communities that are the least recognized are those most endangered by their apparent invisibility.

In doing the research for this book, one of the delights of choosing this approach was in discovering, again and again, that the seeming invisibility of a culture in no way demonstrates a reduction of the beauty or sophistication of its mythology, life ways, or spiritual beliefs. The Karanga mythology of Zimbabwe, for example, reveals a biological sophistication comparable to Indian Ayurveda or China’s Taoist medicine. It is due precisely to its sophistication that Zimbabwe’s traditional healers are fighting against a Swiss University and a U.S. corporation, both of whom want to patent Zimbabwe’s snake bean tree.

The three types of diversity emphasized in the selection of narratives are geographic diversity, cultural diversity, and diversity of endangerment.
·         Geographic Diversity. All geographic regions in this book are represented by different geographic terrain and the cultures that have developed out of them.

·         Cultural Diversity. Africa, for example, is home to hunting and gathering, farming, fishing, and herding cultures as well as cultures whose life ways represent borrowed elements from overseas and mixtures of all of the above, often in increasingly modern urban areas. An emphasis is placed on the more unrepresented at-risk communities.

·         Diversity of endangerment. The world’s indigenous cultures are defending themselves from many corporations, universities, and political groups. The problems they face are many and varied. It is the intention of this book to present a clear picture of the diverse range of difficulties facing these traditional people.

Service To Endangered Polytheistic Peoples

Like the transformational alchemy described within so many of these myths, it is generally understood in the Orient that to know is to be transformed. According to this philosophy, to know something means to behave fundamentally different from before the acquisition of the new knowledge. Truly then, we have learned nothing at all about the often overlooked abuses of global civilization and the communities who are threatened by it, unless we, as individuals and as a greater community:

·         Alter our relationship to the corporations, nations, and institutions that are endangering or exterminating the living polytheistic communities, and

·         Extend our relationships outward—in the sympathetic recognition of the heart—to these endangered communities in action, financial support, or humanitarian service, and

·         Pressure the current administrators of the system of economic globalization to support a sustainable vision of the human future that does not depend on the exploitation or systematic extermination of others.

The Heart of Myth ends with a list of resources that offer service to endangered societies. In this collection of myths, all stories—as projections of the sympathetic heart—express a devotional worldview. Let this devotional vision of the absolute divinity of the “other” inspire us to new knowledge expressed in our individual and collective imagination, compassion, and action. May our hearts be awakened sympathetically within all our relationships, and may our behavior be consistent to the eternal values of myth.

In The Next Blog 

We explore how the grammar of the mystical function of myth and the ecological vision of myth relate to the myths of North America. 


Dave Alber is the author of To the Dawn, Myth & Medium, and Alien Sex in Silicon Valley. His book The Heart of Myth is a global anthology of living myth that unpacks the grammar of world mythology. His website is and his English learning products are at

DAVE ALBER  September Guest Blogs

Friday, September 22, 2017

DAVE ALBER GUEST POST: What Is The Alchemy Of Myth #FirstDayOfFall #FridayReads #September #blog

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From the perspective of the mystical function of myth, myth is a metaphorical system founded in primary states of awareness that the language of myth refers back to. 
-Dave Alber 


Hello Blogosphere!

I’m Dave Alber, the guest blogger for September on Stephanie Pope’s blog.

I introduced the core grammar of myth in the last blog titled: “What Is The Core Grammar Of Mythology?”

In that last blog, I wrote about the grammar of myth from the perspective of the mystical function of myth. Myth is a metaphorical system founded in primary states of awareness that the language of myth refers back to. From the perspective of this mystical function, myth is a way to communicate an experience that is also the essence of Taoism:
The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.
Nothingness is the Origin of Heaven and Earth.
Beingness is the Mother of the Ten Thousand Things.[1] 

In plain language, thought and ideation — giving things names and living in a worldview of things with names — is understood as a secondary process of the mind, whereas simply experiencing life directly uninfluenced by that secondary process — simply being aware without naming what comes into awareness — is a return to the primary level of experience. In this context, the lines above from the Tao te Ching are meditation instructions… as are myths functioning from the grammar of the mystical function of myth!

Myths often refer to the heart as an organ of awareness that opens one up to the primary experience of life. As stated in the previous blog: Sympathetic awareness, empathetic consciousness, or knowing experience directly through the heart of compassion is highly valued and cultivated as a primary truth. It is the truth not to be forgotten lying behind all arguments or apparent differences within the interconnected continuum of all beings. This fullness of difference (what in India is called maya or “that which can be measured”) is indeed more deeply recognized as a stream of pulsating energy within which we participate in harmony (as manifestations of maya-shakti) if we make the upward moving recognition of this unified field of simultaneous energy and consciousness. We will perceive this same experience as disharmony if we are fixated in the downward moving recognition of difference, distinction, and separateness. For in polytheistic cultures the contextual appreciation of reality is alchemical.

The word alchemical is used in the sense of being psychologically transformational, of being mobile among states of awareness, and especially of being mobile in the world of forms while remaining grounded in an experience of life’s unfiltered primacy.

The alchemical/transformational nature of the mythological worldview is used — all over the world — as a communication medium for humanity’s shared eternal values. This is important because it is genuinely not that difficult to experience moments of enlightenment or eternal values on the meditation cushion, however it requires a deft stabilization of awareness in daily life to remain grounded in enlightenment and eternal values while moving through a world defined by socially communal constructs and names.
The Himalayan bhava chakra depicts a wheel sliced
 like a pie into six sections.  Each section represents 

a different habitual trance state that people fall into.
 Thinking and ideation define one  of these habitual  
trance states.  This fresco is from the Potala Palace in Tibet.
We take the world of names and forms for granted, but when we access the primary level of our awareness and then look upon the world of things, we realize that the habitual — un-mystical — worldview of things and forms is a secondary trance state. (It’s one of the six trance states described in the Himalayan Buddhist bhava chakra.) 


[1] This is the first line of the Tao te Ching. Tao te Ching Daily. Accessed 08-31-2017.

The Inherent Alchemy of the Mythological Worldview
Excerpt taken from "The Heart Of Myth"

An alchemical recognition saturates the polytheistic mythological worldview. This recognition is of two movements: one upward toward unity and wholeness; its contrary force moving downward toward diversity, difference, and disintegration. These forces are represented in religious imagery in the Chinese Taijitu symbol of the yin and the yang and the Indian Shivite Hindu symbol of Shiva and Shakti represented as the upward and downward pointing triangles within the six-pointed star.
In polytheistic cultures, the alchemical model of these two simultaneous processes provides an accurate view of the transformations of life, wherewith one may experience the ephemera of one’s experience (whether animals, food, loved ones, and even oneself) transform from one process to another. It is also a model for recognizing and cultivating states of awareness while in this play of life.

In the alchemical model, states of awareness are appreciated as a regular, if not continuous, spiritual practice. The polytheistic community member “checks in” to recognize the state of his awareness in the moment. Is awareness and attention focused on selfish motivations that separate the community member from others (the downward movement)? Or is awareness and attention held in meditation on what would benefit the community (the upward movement)? In the later experience, the “community” can be as large as one’s worldview. Indeed, as large as imagination can make it.

The Eternal Values of Myth

In pan-Indian aesthetics food consists of rasas or “flavors”.  A
traditional meal is a mandala which contains all of the flavors of
life. It is a symbol of perfected “flavors” within the sphere of unity.
The eternal values (or virtues) of love, joy, truth, peace, freedom, heroism, loyalty, and compassion transcend culture styles. For example, in India an understanding of the rasas, or “flavors” of life, is used as a spiritual compass. It is understood that the flavors of love, joy, and peace, if fully embodied, manifest as expressions of a transcendent recognition of reality.

The eternal values are, in a way, mediating forces between human experience and the mysterium tremendum et fascinans[2], but as with the virtues in Dante’s Purgatorio, they lead to the Absolute in the Paradiso. Medieval Catholic Europe held that the seven virtues (chastity, abstinence, liberality, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility) represent unchanging values that give confidence to the spiritual aspirant seeking fixed truths. The fixed truths are not that this or that historical event occurred with such and such results. But rather, that kindness exists—that it exists as an eternal value and that the eternal value can be drawn from and embodied. The virtue is a transcendent form with recognizable temporal manifestations. An aspirant can halfheartedly seek to embody a virtue and in doing so he symbolizes ambivalence more than the virtue he seeks. For again, from the perspective of these worldviews with more time and experience than our own—everything symbolizes!

These Medieval virtues were Catholic elaborations on the cardinal virtues (temperance, prudence, courage, and justice) of the polytheistic Greek worldview. Plato and Aristotle both wrote that to practice any one virtue to perfection would be to have mastered them all, and Socrates himself contemplated the virtues in many of his dialogues. Furthermore, the word virtue itself comes from the Greek ethike arete, which means “habitual excellence” and, as such, “is something practiced at all times.”[3] The virtues were a second attention practice in the language of the Buddhists. A second attention practice keeps the practitioner awake and aware of his or her state of consciousness by keeping secondary awareness on a visualization, meditation, mantra, place in the body, or breath. It is a type of mindfulness meditation. For the Ancient Greeks then, the practice of habitual excellence allowed people to act from a continually maintained core experience of eternal values.

Some spiritual practices in Chinese Taoism are comparable. In Chuang Tzu’s story The Sign of Virtue Complete, the reader is asked to consider the element water as a spiritual example for balancing virtues within one’s life. “What do you mean when you say his virtue takes no form?” a seeker asks a sage. The sage replies:  
The sage replies:

“Among level things, water at rest is the most perfect, and therefore it can serve  as a standard. It guards what is inside and shows no movement outside. Virtue is the establishment of perfect harmony. 
Though virtue takes no form, things cannot break away from it.”
This Lakshmi mandala is placed in front of Nepalese houses on the 3rd day of Tihar (Gai Tihar). Lakshmi (Laxmi) is the goddess of abundance. The tiny footprints are meant to lead abundance into the house. The holiday is a celebration of the abundance of life.

In polytheistic cultures, the meditation on eternal values, understood as a continual awareness practice, creates balance. The maintenance of personal harmony is the base experience of most people in these communities.

The deities of polytheistic cultures refer, express, and manifest these eternal values. They are vitalizing energies and expressions of consciousness that, for the balanced individual or community, model appropriate responses to the rhythms of life, whether reflected in seasonal festivals or the transformations of the body in age.

These eternal values are also what Plato called “forms” and the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called “archetypes.” Jung states:

The concept of the archetype, which is an indispensable correlate to the idea of the collective unconscious, indicates the existence of definite forms in the psyche which seem to be present always and everywhere. Mythological research calls them “motifs”; in the psychology of primitives they correspond to Levy-Bruhl’s concept of “representations collectives,” and in the field of comparative religion they have been defined by Hubert and Mauss as “categories of the imagination.” Adolf Bastian long ago called them “elementary” or “primordial thoughts.” From these references, it should be clear enough that my idea of the archetype—literally a pre-existent form—does not stand alone, but is something that is recognized and named in other fields of knowledge.

Eternal values are inherent to all humanity. Without the guidance of such values, people become ambivalent, attaching their values to petty fads, opinions, and comforts. For certainly, as well as maintaining eternal values, the concerns of an individual or an entire civilization may very well be petty or middling. A people may say they stand for freedom, but if their idea of “freeing” the people of the hour means conditioning that population to be subservient to an externally imposed economic system and/or the acquisition of their resources, then their actual understanding of freedom is suspect. If people fool themselves on this point then they will suffer quietly, or at least unintelligibly, because they will have lost touch with the eternal values and forever mistake false values, perhaps misshapen and monstrous values, for the virtues themselves. With the loss of eternal values, they will act out merely as beasts mimicking the actions of men. Their greatest triumphs will be the winning of wars, the economic domination of others, and the acquisition of profit, power, or comfort.

The global civilization, at times, denigrates the values or worldviews of “primitive” polytheistic people. People in the global civilization after all, have an impressive worldview that encompasses not only the economically quantifiable material world, but also, more subtle and often surprisingly beautiful aspects of the entire universe as explored through myriad sciences. Yet, this civilization’s mass marketing of triviality has shattered its people’s self-recognition with the eternal values of myth.

Re-experiencing these values with an open sympathetic heart reconnects us not only to the people who transmitted their wisdom through their stories, but to our own depth, height, and breadth. We are returned to our most fully human context and we are able to recognize our lives in relation to profound life-affirming values. Communion with these values allows us to be effective, not as automatons serving a system’s agenda, but as vigorous human beings serving the fuller profundity of a responsive life.

In the 4th and next guest blog in this series by cultural mythologer, Dave Alber he will explore the ecological and sustainable vision of living myth.  Look for it this coming Sunday!


[2] “Life’s awesome and fascinating mystery.” The Latin phrase was coined by Rudolf Otto in his book The Idea of the Holy. London: Oxford U.P., 1958. p. 12.
[3] Adler, Mortimer, J. and Charles Van Doren. Great Treasury of Western Thought: A Compendium of Important Statements on Man and His Institutions by the Great Thinkers in Western History. New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1977. pp. 630, 634.

[4] Chuang Tzu. Basic Writings. Trans. Burton Watson. New York: Columbia U. P., 1964. p. 70. 

[5] Jung, Carl. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. New York: Princeton U.P., 1990. pp. 42-3.


Dave Alber is the author of To the Dawn, Myth & Medium, and Alien Sex in Silicon Valley. His book The Heart of Myth is a global anthology of living myth that unpacks the grammar of world mythology. His website is and his English learning products are at

DAVE ALBER  September Guest Blogs

What Is Myth For You?

Blog 2
What Is The Core Grammar of Mythology?

Blog 3
What Is The Alchemy Of Myth?

Blog 4
What Is The Ecological Vision Of Myth?

Blog 5
The Myths Of Native North America

Blog 6
The Myths Of The Crow (Apsaalooke) People