Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

Heart Of Myth Kindle Edition Amazon

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