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Urban Legend

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Urban Legend is a kind of modern folk tale of dubious truth, but it’s usually told as if true.

Urban legends often involve horror themes that attempt to evoke strong emotions. They’re transmitted by word of mouth, through the print media, TV, radio or the internet. Ghost stories, vampires and the idea of creepy things in city sewers would be some examples.

Wikipedia puts it this way:

An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true, and often possess horror implications that are believable to their audience.

Despite its name, an urban legend does not necessarily originate in an urban area. Rather, the term is used to differentiate modern legend from traditional folklore in pre-industrial times. For this reason, sociologists and folklorists prefer the term “contemporary legend”.¹

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The academic view may be more correct, technically. But the term “urban legend” has a cool ring to it that’s missing in the phrase “contemporary legend.” Maybe that’s partly why pulp fiction sells better than academic text books. The very term “urban legend” also plays into the mystique. And that’s probably what people seek when consuming this kind of stuff. A bit of excitement. Escape. Or as Carl Jung put it, an experience of the numinous.

Urban legend, especially regarding urban tales, differs from mythology. Traditionally, myths are said to carry some kind of supernatural connotation. Myths also are understood by modern people to be factually untrue. But with urban legend, the listener doesn’t know if the story is true or not. And urban legends do not necessarily have a supernatural element.

Urban legend is also said to differ from myth in that urban legends linger in the imagination as if they may be true, however exaggerated they might become through repeated telling.²

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_legend

² This distinction seems debatable. Consider Hindus who believe that the story of Krishna is not myth but reality. Also, many Christians take aspects of the Bible literally, no matter how fantastic or limiting some Bible tales may be. And yet many see the Bible as just another myth. Alternately, many see it as a combination of myth, politics, prejudice, distant history and spirituality.

Related Posts » Ticket

 


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UFO

English: Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Pas...

B&W image of supposed UFO, Passaic, New Jersey Edited version of Image:PurportedUFO NewJersey 1952 07 31.gif. By Bach01. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UFO means “unidentified flying object.” Because UFOs are unidentified objects, this leaves the door open for all kinds of possibilities. UFOs are usually taken as extraterrestrial spacecraft but they could be an energy or spirit field (or possibly being), like the many orbs that have been observed through camera and the naked eye.

Alleged UFO sightings have been reported throughout history. Since the 1950’s UFOs and aliens have been popularized by the news and entertainment media. Some authors like George Adamski and, more recently, Rael and Whitley Streiber claim to have encountered aliens.

Alien sightings and abduction accounts have increased in the media, especially on sci-fi TV networks and radio shows like Coast to Coast AM.

Also making the news was an apparent U.S. military cover-up of a crashed flying disc and its inhabitants at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) quickly modified an earlier announcement about a crashed flying disc, saying later in the same day that the disc was attached to a weather balloon. The Air Force has responded to charges of “controlling public information” by stating that there was “no evidence” of UFO air traffic over Roswell and the case has been officially closed.

Public figures like Dan Akroyd, however, continue to explore the possibility of a government cover-up.

Not everyone sees UFOs through the lens of conspiracy theories. Raelians believe that mankind was created by wise, loving aliens. And some contemporary writers believe that mankind is gradually being acclimatized to the reality of ETs through the media. Conversely, some Christian fundamentalists believe that aliens, and anything associated with them, are demonic.

Others take a middle path, believing that aliens may be benevolent or malevolent. Just as human history is a complicated mix of good and bad, it seems to reason that interstellar realities would be much the same.

Alien Possession Theory (APT) is the idea that some ET’s, embodied or disembodied, try to manipulate individuals through the use of psi.

Some UFO theories are quite bizarre. Hollow Earth theorists, for instance, believe that UFOs originate from the bowels of the planet, where an advanced civilization apparently resides.¹

Adamski's photograph, which is said to be of a...

Adamski’s photograph, which is said to be of a UFO, taken on December 13, 1952. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The depth psychologist Carl Jung (1875–1961) said that the disc shaped UFOs of the 1950s and early 60s could be real but he also viewed them as archetypal images of the self. For Jung, UFOs were a modern mandala. Meanwhile the respected author Jacques Vallée likens UFO lore to fairy tales and mysterious trickster beings.²

Since Vatican Council II (1962-65) was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church has endorsed inquiry into the possibility of ETs and UFOs. This makes the Catholic position on UFOs and ETs quite different from that of many Christian fundamentalists.

¹ See related entries in The Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends (London: Headline, 1993) and The Paranormal: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Headline, 1992) by Stuart Gordon.

² Ibid.

Related Posts » George Adamski, Aliens and Extraterrestrials (ETs), “ET’s, UFO’s and the Psychology of Belief,” Foo Fighers, Moses and Monotheism, Possession, Michael Talbot, Neil Young


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Unconscious

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Black’s Medical Dictionary (39th edition) defines the unconscious as “a description of mental activities of which an individual is unaware” (p. 567).

In the West, the idea of the unconscious has an interesting history. It’s found in the ancient Greek literature of Sophocles, with related ideas like hubris, and in Shakespeare and more recent luminaries like James Joyce.

Philosophical debates about its character flourished in the 18th century among thinkers like John Locke and David Hume. In the 20th century, Freud, Pierre Janet, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and many others presented their unique theories about the unconscious.

Arthur Koestler believes the idea of the unconscious was already known before the actual word was coined. Koestler cites several examples where the notion of the unconscious is implied in the arts and philosophy (e.g. Dante, Kepler and Kant). Koestler also says that consciousness and unconsciousness are not discrete states but exist along a continuum.¹

From Koestler it seems reasonable to suggest that the range and character of this experiential continuum varies among individuals. In other words, some people access different types of thoughts and emotions than others.

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Maca...

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Macauley and Flannery O’Connor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But we should remember that the unconscious is just a concept. All too often it’s reified. Reification means ideas are assumed to represent some real entity or thing–for instance, the sociological idea of “the state.” Reified concepts may even point to detailed legal entities.²

A common misunderstanding among contemporary writers is to say that Freud sees the unconscious as uniquely personal while his former protege Carl Jung sees it as collective.³ In fact, both theorist recognize personal and collective aspects within their respective theories of the unconscious.

¹ Koestler, Arthur. The Act of Creation. New York: Penguin [Arkana], 1989: 147-177.

² Reification is also a concept. So the question remains as to whether the thing written or talked about actually exists as described.

³ See shadow, archetypes


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Vulcan

Vulcan Defending Red Mountain

Vulcan Defending Red Mountain (Photo credit: curtis palmer)

Vulcan in ancient myth

In earliest Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of destructive fire, especially volcano fire.

His temple was usually at the outskirts of a city, officiated by a priest (flamen). And his festival, Volcanalia, was celebrated on August 23.

When the Volcanalia also paid homage to the Nymphs and other deities, live fish were thrown into a fire as a sacrificial offering to Vulcan.

In the classical Greece Vulcan became Hephaestus, the master blacksmith. In his giant forge at Mount Olympus he fashioned the armor and shield of Achilles, as well as Cupid‘s arrows and Jupiter‘s thunderbolts.

He was depicted lame and his offspring were often ugly.

Vulcan (Star Trek)

Vulcan (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vulcan in modern myth

In the American TV and film Star Trek franchise, Vulcan is the alien race and home planet to which the ever-popular character, Mr. Spock belongs. Other notable Vulcans include Sarek (Spock’s father), T’Pol (Star Trek: Enterprise) and Tuvok (Star Trek: Voyager).

Originally a savage and barbaric race, Vulcans almost destroyed themselves in their ancient past. They overcame global disaster by repressing all emotion in favor of highly developed logic.

Star Trek Vulcans possess supra-human strength and intellect but are less adept at creative, intuitive problem solving.

Deutsch: Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In keeping with the Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung, mythic symbols are said to evoke the numinous, spiritual aspects of the unconscious mind. So it seems that Star Trek’s creators chose the mythic name of Vulcan, hoping it would resonate with the archetypal images that Western viewers are familiar with.

In this greater sense, then, Mr. Spock and his people may be taken as a continuation of the original Roman myth.

More recently, “Vulcan” was a popular favorite for the name of one of two new moons discovered around Pluto.¹  Astronomical officials, however, decided on the names Kerberos and Styx.

¹ http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-21588327

Related Posts » Romulans, Star Trek: The Original Series


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World Soul (anima mundi)

Anima Mundi

Anima Mundi (Photo credit: Cornelia Kopp)

Generally speaking, World Soul (anima mundi) is the idea of the “One” through which all living things on this Earth are said to be interconnected.

The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung mentions Plotinus‘ term “word soul” when speaking of the archetype of the self. And some Jungians use the term as if it represents an absolute truth, rather than an idea to be tested through ongoing experience and analysis.

Many believe the idea of the World Soul can be traced back to Plato, or possibly to even older, Asian systems of belief.¹

Today, New Age believers, Neo-Gnostics and artists have adapted this idea in countless ways.

Related Posts » Plotinus

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima_mundi


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Alan Watts

Emptiness by Miss Gong via Flickr

No one really knows just who the British-born Alan Watts (1915-1973) really was. Scholar, writer, Tantric yogi, ex-Catholic synthesizer of Eastern and Western beliefs—all would apply.

He had such a powerful presence when I was an undergraduate student that he seemed alive when I read his books in the 1980s. We didn’t have the internet back then, so I didn’t know he’d passed.¹

Although I don’t agree with everything he says, Watts was an innovate teacher who mastered the art of spontaneity. And his wit and enthusiasm made him one of the leading advocates of mystical introspection.

Now that I’ve had more time to assess his work, it seems that his abundant charms may have arisen at the expense of rigorous thought. For example, one of his arguments about the West “not getting it” rests on simplistic assumptions and stereotypes. And some proponents of alleged Asian wisdom continue to perpetuate these assumptions and stereotypes today, which I find really boring and sometimes bordering on racism or national discrimination.

In the video, Time: The More it Changes, Watts says that Western psychologists used to explain human behavior in terms of instinct, and now – 1972 – people tend to speak of “drives.” He then gives counterexamples to suggest the opposite. Watts is not driven to eat or have sex, but rather chooses to identify with these activities.

English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...

Group photo in front of Clark University Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. Photo taken for Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts publication. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, not all psychologists see human behavior as entirely motivated by drives. Even Sigmund Freud, whose idea of the libido is often taken as excessively instinctual, recognized the importance of social forces in regulating biological drives.

Moreover, 20th century existentialists say that what makes us truly human (and free) is a “gap of nothingness” that stands between drives and actions (or inaction). And many Christians speak of “grace” that can override instinctual drives.

So Watts wasn’t perfect. But he did popularize and provoke. And he spoke to an individualistic inner life for those who didn’t feel comfortable with organized religion.

How did he get there?

In 1968 Watts admitted to taking five different types of psychedelic drugs to learn about mysticism.

I myself have experimented with five of the principal psychedelics: LSD-25, mescaline, psilocybin, dimethyl-tryptamine (DMT), and cannabis. I have done so, as William James tried nitrous oxide, to see if they could help me in identifying what might be called the “essential” or “active” ingredients of the mystical experience.²

Nordstrom and Pilgrim take an extremely dim view of Watts’ ideas.

Watts’ mysticism is deviant because it seeks perversely to undo mystical experience. This is done by inferring from the fact that mystical experience is not ineffable, that there is no separation between the spiritual and the physical, which eventually is transformed into the view that the spiritual and the physical are virtually the same thing, which Watts calls his “spiritual materialism”…[this] both precludes the possibility and obviates the necessity of mystical experience. What is perverse about Watts’ mysticism, in a word, is that it is antimystical.
This would not be so perverse were it not for the fact that Watts considered himself to be a mystic, as remarks like “I am a shameless mystic” and “a mystic in spite of myself” make clear.
Watts is a strange and confusing combination of a man-of-letters and a mystic, who used his extraordinary articulateness and literary ability to undermine mystical experience by rejecting the sense in which such experience is ineffable. What one is left with, unfortunately, is, as Zen master Rinzai once put it, “words and phrases, however excellent.”³

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 51st week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Love him or hate him, according to legend Watts predicted a flash of lightning that accompanied his death. And when he died, a local Druid’s bell apparently rang out in town, off schedule. Later, a lightning flash hit the cable leading to the bell.

Similar paranormal phenomena apparently accompanied the death of Carl Jung, another prominent innovator and advocate of an East-West synthesis. And when Hollywood actor Rock Hudson died of AIDS, a rainbow appeared. So if these stories are true, it seems that God has his ways of letting us know who the real movers and shakers are.

¹ Watts lives on as a computer program who helps to lure Samantha (an OS) away from the protagonist in the film Her. See my audio review http://epages.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/her-review-by-mc/

² Alan Watts, “Psychedelics and Religious Experience,” California Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Jan., 1968:74-85), p. 75.

³ Louis Nordstrom and Richard Pilgrim, “The Wayward Mysticism of Alan Watts,” Philosophy East and West, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Jul., 1980: 381-401), pp. 381-382.

Related Posts » Confucianism, Ego, Id, Superego, Taoism, Wu Wei, Yogi


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Witch

Hans Baldung Grien, Witches, woodcut, 1508. Mu...

Hans Baldung Grien, Witches, woodcut, 1508. Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain was meant to evoke a witches’ sabbath. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From his study of African witchcraft, the anthropologist E. E. Evans Pritchard distinguished witchcraft from sorcery: Witches are physically born as such while a person may become a sorcerer later in life.

Both are traditionally associated with evil.

In legend witches use magical spells and potions to work their malice. Legends also tell of good “white witches,” as found in shamanism or fairy tales. In Africa, the original meaning of the witch doctor was “one who cures the illness caused by a witch.”

In 1326 Pope John XXII responded to Dominican pressure by proclaiming witchcraft a heresy. European witch hysteria became so pronounced in the 14th century that mass witch trials began in 1397 in Lucerne.

In 1486 two Dominican monks wrote the Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches or Witches Hammer). The book was a grisly, perverse manual on how to identify and force confessions out of suspected witches, who in most cases were deemed guilty before arrest. Statistics reveal that in Essex of Southwest England 91% of the 271 accused of sorcery from 1560 – 1680 were women.

The Church could legally claim the land and economic holdings of convicted witches. Some believe that in convicting so-called witches, perverse clergy were more interested in worldly than spiritual gain. Most of the condemned were vulnerable women and therefore scapegoats—the poor, the single and those deemed unattractive or different. Accordingly, Carl Jung says the persecution of witches in Europe and North America was a mass projection of the shadow.

UPN took great advantage promoting the network...

UPN took great advantage promoting the network switch by teasing fans of Buffy’s resurrection from The WB’s series finale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, witchcraft has become a complicated phenomenon. Many recognize witchcraft as an alternative religion. Aspiring women witches join covens and many practice what they believe is white magic.

A variety of commercial occult products has grown alongside the modern practice of witchcraft.

The idea of the ethically ambiguous witch has also been popularized and, to some extent, normalized through film and TV productions, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In the TV version of Buffy, the character Willow uses witchcraft for the good but becomes consumed by her quest for magical power and eventually allows evil to dominate her. Although many religious fundamentalists might deplore such an apparently ‘evil’ program, the TV series closes with Willow regaining her humility (and humanity) by allowing love to reenter her life.

Related Posts » Ancestor Cults, Archetypal Image, Glamour, Haensel and Gretel, Latin, C. S. Lewis, Macbeth, Madness, Neo-Paganism, Odyssey, Psychosis, Scholarship, Barbara G. Walker

Of interest:

John Paul II revived the Inquisition» http://jp2m.blogspot.com/2006/11/john-paul-ii-revived-inquisition.html

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