Recently, I pondered a dilemma…
…a dilemma that only grew more complex as I pondered.
Joseph Campbell seeded my thought, years ago, when told Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth:
“We are in childhood in a condition of dependency under someone’s protection and supervision for some fourteen to twenty-one years—and if you’re going on for your Ph.D., this may continue to perhaps thirty-five. You are in no way a self-responsible, free agent, but an obedient dependent, expecting and receiving punishments and rewards.
“To evolve out of this position of psychological immaturity to the courage of self-responsibility and assurance requires a death and resurrection. That’s the basic motif of the universal hero’s journey—leaving one condition and finding the source of life to bring you forth into a richer or mature condition.”
Campbell offers a solution to a problem we all face. But how do we enact this solution? How do we create a death and resurrection that will free us from this psychological state of dependency?
An initiation rite is designed to break the individual out of childhood and propel him into adulthood. During the initiation rite, the participant experiences the hero’s journey; he experiences a death and resurrection.
Though we can’t expect to duplicate earlier rituals, I’ve wondered if we could create a similar instrument for these times, an instrument that would produce a similar transformation.
However, the purpose of the initiation was not simply to project one into adulthood, but to create a functioning member of the community.
But what if our community is governed, to a greater or lesser degree, in an authoritarian manner? What if the instrument of initiation becomes a machination for perpetuating the status quo of an authoritarian state?
Whatever the nature of our community, in becoming a member of that community, we may identify too strongly with our group. When that happens, other groups become “the other”, become alien, and potentially, the enemy.
So our “instrument of initiation” must make us sensitive both to the needs of our community, and to the needs of all communities. Our instrument of initiation must also be an “instrument of individuation”—must give one the security to stand alone, to stand in defiance of the community, if need be.
Obviously, our instrument of initiation—our instrument of individuation, our instrument of community—must enable one to acknowledge, accept, embrace contradiction.
As to what form this instrument might possibly take…
…I haven’t the slightest notion. However…
…I believe that, over time, we will respond to this dilemma—we will create some means to deal with this problem. Such solutions don’t come to us instantaneously. It will be a tedious, step by step process. But we will deal with this dilemma, with this crisis. Because, obviously, the human race needs to grow up, needs to take a step up. If we don’t…
…we’ll pay an even greater cost for reminding the same.
© 2010, Michael R. Patton