One of the primary focuses I had in my years of study at Pacifica was in deepening my understanding of the importance of story to humankind, and in adding meaning to the process of creating art, particularly the written word. The hero's journey, as laid out by Joseph Campbell in his seminal work "The Hero with a Thousand Faces", illustrates beautifully the process that any creative artist must go through in order to create art. Phil Cousineau talks about this quite eloquently in his new book "Stoking the Creative Fires", and I would encourage anyone interested in the relationship between the creative process and the hero's journey to check it out.
One of the primary issues that artists struggle with is, and should be, how to reach their audience in a meaningful way; how to be the book, or film, or performance that resonates, that touches the soul. It is the power of art to do this that sets the human race apart, and it is, in my opinion, the primary function of art. Carl Jung tells us that when the gods came down out of Mount Olympus, they moved into the body, at the level of the gut, the level of the third chakra. This is that place in the body that art that connects can be felt, that physiological reaction that the body has when art connects with soul. We've all had that experience of seeing a great film, a great performance, reading a great book where we feel the experience of it in our body, at that precise place that Jung describes.
So, the question is, how can an artist, in the process of creating her art, connect with that place? I believe the answer lies in the very descent that is described in the hero's journey. The hero makes a descent into the underworld, and returns with a boon that he brings back to his community. The artist makes that descent into the pool of the collective unconscious, that place where stories live, and returns with a boon as well. It is that descent that sets his work apart, his willingness to make the descent is the key, the thing that separates the great artist apart from those whose work is easily set aside and forgotten. How does this work? I believe this can be illuminated in the story of Inanna.
to be continued...