Man has always had myths. Stories with the power not only to interpret the human journey but even to transform it. Myths speak to our subconscious minds. They are deep and archetypal symbols. But what are we to make of the stories given to us by Hollywood and other modern myth-makers?
Entertainment is big business in the United States. It is estimated that the entertainment industry will grow to over 679 billion in value over the next four years with no stopping point in sight. Hollywood is making more than just money, and their products are more than just entertainment. Their stories are intertwined with ancient and deep archetypes.
An example of one such archetype is the Hero/Savior evident in such film franchises as Batman, Superman, and Thor. In Batman, the hero sacrifices himself for the sins of Gotham. Avatar brings in an eastern archetype somewhat less familiar to the western mind, yet none the less is rooted in mythology. The motif of the “Scarlet Woman” or “Whore of Babylon” from Sumerian mythology is found in movies like Eyes Wide Shut and the symbol of the all-seeing eye or the ‘Eye of Horus’ from Egyptian mythology can be found almost everywhere. These myths and symbols are not just in the film industry but all across television, music, fashion and even corporate logos.
Unlike the information in a newspaper column, archetypal stories are processed below the threshold of the conscious mind and are of an entirely different nature. Similar to how body language is picked up by the subconscious mind (of which 90% of communication is attributed) these ancient and deeply rooted myths and symbols have the ability to bypass our rational filters and ‘speak’ directly to our subconscious. Yet what effect do themes of excessive violence, narcissism, hedonism, materialism, consumerism and the rampant sexualization of virtually everything have on society as a whole when our subconscious minds are constantly bombarded with these toxic themes found woven into the fabric of film and television?
Not unlike politics, the public has increasingly become distrusting of ‘the entertainment industry.’ The expectation today for movies and music videos to be free of subliminal messages, political propaganda and an occult agenda is on the decline. Many parents try to some degree to shelter and/or limit their children’s exposure to Hollywood. Others have tried to expose these agendas in entertainment in order to empower consumers to make more informed decisions. What is the answer?
With agenda and propaganda abound in 21st century pop-culture, sheltering is just not an option, especially when simply looking out the window can reveal just as much as turning on a television.
But neither Hollywood nor the Ancient Egyptians for that matter invented violence, materialism or any of the other themes which are toxic to healthy development. The real culprit is human existence and therefore any solution must allude to the importance of having a deep intimacy with human nature and life.
The good news is, myths are not bad for you. Nor are you completely helpless before their power to effect you on a sub or unconscious level. ‘Myth-making’ is not a special gift given to Walt Disney and other Freemasons, it is something we all do every day when we write stories in our heads about what is going on around us and out of which we make meaning out of our lives. While these personal myths can instill a sense of empowerment (“I can do anything”), or conversely a sense of dis-empowerment (“I can’t do anything right”), depending on the story we write, the important thing to know is that while we can’t always control the circumstances and challenges life presents us, we can control our interpretation of life and how we define it for ourselves. Rather than seek to control life, we can gain mastery over our personal myths.
Similarly, if we can readily accept that these these modern myths are being used in a limiting and destructive manner, then each of us – including our children – must also possess power to heal ourselves and our society by using them in a productive and life affirming manner. We must learn to re-evaluate the stories we have been given, and ultimately re-imagine and re-interpret them so that they serve to support our development and contribute to our flourishing rather than suppress it.
Consuming entertainment for modern man is like breathing air. We are surrounded by it, and can no more escape it than primal man could escape being surrounded by the night sky. For better or worse, we’ve traded the stars of heaven for the ‘stars’ of Hollywood and like like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, have come to confuse the shadow’s on the wall for reality itself. In our culture there can be no doubt this is already the case. For many, our characters have been shaped as much by television as they have by our own actual experiences. Therefore any real antidote will require no small amount of presence for and participation in real life. Without it, the shadows will always have power over the objects that cast them.
In reality, shadows are a natural phenomenon and to hide that from children may give them a distorted view of the world. In the same regard, the dark intentions of the entertainment industry do not exist in a vacuum but are in fact a product of the same light that brings you all that is true and pure. So would it not be more sensible to teach them about both, to help them discriminate between light and shadow, so that they can discover for themselves how best to navigate it consciously, safely, and with discernment?
In the story of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), the young Prince spent his entire youth having never left the confines of the courtyard of his lavish palace, at the discretion of his Father who had sought to shield him from the knowledge of all pain and suffering that comes with sickness, aging and death. Finally at age 29 Siddhartha decides to leave the gates of his palace for the first time. Along the road he encounters an old man, which troubles him because he had never known of old age before. On his next two excursions he finds a sick man, and then finally a dead man. After each of these successive revelations Siddhartha returns to his palace but is deeply troubled and no longer able to fully enjoy the pleasures and delights of palace life as he once did. He could not escape the truth of what he had seen. This story points to a fundamental insight that we cannot simply suppress the shadow sides of life and deny its existence once confronted with it (which everyone will be at some point in time).
Deepening our intimacy with life’s truths and mysteries as well as grounding ourselves (and our children) in healthy life-affirming personal/cultural myths is a much more effective solution than even the best efforts to shelter one from the shadow sides of life. While this requires the use of myths for something other than escapism and in-discriminant consumption of entertainment, this antidote has the power to put the entertainment industry and it’s hidden agendas in perspective and make their negative influence in our lives diminished or even reversed with the proper grounding and interpretation. Alternatively we can continue to seek and use entertainment as a form of escape, in which case the light of that which we are escaping will inevitably leave us further and further in darkness about the very truths and mysteries of life which hold the key.
That isn’t to say it would be responsible to open the floodgates and allow children to be swept along in the undercurrent of Hollywood, Disney, MTV, and whatever is to follow (soon virtual reality). Yet while some amount of sheltering may be necessary, you must know your child. Children who grow up in a sterile environment who have never been exposed to germs are just as bad off as the kids who grew up in an unusually unsanitary environment. Over-sheltering suggests to a child’s psychological immune system (the unconscious) that they are powerless before the toxic themes and myths once exposed to them. The antidote is effective precisely because it helps build up one’s natural defenses. But this means that first we all must wrestle with the possibility that nothing the entertainment industry can possibly have to throw at us will ever be more powerful than we are ourselves.
Here is this weeks video episode of the Return Of Gnosis podcast. The audio only version is also available below.