When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
For I had lost the path that does not stray. (Dante, Inferno I of the Commedia)
A desire stirs in each of us at some point in our lives, prompting us to leave the familiar confines of family, neighborhood and routine and take to the road in response to one of the oldest archetypal impulses embedded in our psyche: pilgrimage.
The pilgrim is not a tourist, a road warrior, or one mobile for the sake of movement alone. Pilgrimage is a questing after some appetite in the soul that possessions or success will not satisfy. A poetic journey stirred by the process of individuation, it is also a sacred restlessness for an experience that transcends the normative, everyday reality we live out, at times, almost unconsciously. It is a journey both external and internal which insists on documenting itself in memory and in the act of writing. I call this action "pengrimage."
Jung reminds us that "the quality of inwardness is missing today:" ie an awareness of an inner correspondence or equivalence with an actual event or situation in the world. Pilgrimage is an attempt to allow for the presence of this correspondence between psyche, spirit and world through silence, solitude and meditation.
Joseph Campbell and one’s Personal Mythos
"Metaphor is the language of myth." (Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor)
From September 1954 to August 1955, the well-known mythologist Joseph Campbell made a year long pilgrimage to India, then on to southeast Asia and Japan. In that journey he slowly realized what his life’s work was to be. Looking together at passages from the two journals he kept (Baksheesh and Brahman, and Sake and Satori), we will note his method, the content and the rising realization in Campbell of his own personal mythology as recorded in these books.
Like Campbell, each of us has within a personal myth that seeks its most appropriate path in the world. We will individually, and then together, explore the contours of our own myth through 3-4 writing exercises designed to uncover the metaphors that comprise our personal mythology. Coming after our morning conversation, these exercises will allow us to remember and choose an event or two in our own lives that we could acknowledge as having a powerful influence on who we have been and are continuing to become.
Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D is core faculty, Mythological Studies and Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute where he teaches courses in mythology, classical literature and depth psychology. He is the author of 8 books, including: The Idiot: Dostoevsky’s Fantastic Prince (1984); The Wounded Body: Remembering the Markings of Flesh (2000); Grace in the Desert: Awakening to the Gifts of Monastic Life (2004); Casting the Shadows: Selected Poems (2002); Just Below the Water Line: Selected Poems (2004).With Lionel Corbett he has co-edited Depth Psychology: Meditations in the Field (2001) and Psychology at the Threshold (2002).