The narratives that have shaped us,
and the ones we have yet to shape..
It's all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we are between stories. The Old Story---the account of how the world came into being and how we fit into it---sustained us for a long time. It shaped our emotional attitudes, provided us with life purpose, energized action, consecrated suffering, integrated knowledge, and guided education. We awoke in the morning and knew where we were. We could answer the questions of our children. But now it is no longer functioning properly, and we have not yet learned the New Story.
--Father Thomas Berry 1978
(Quoted in In Context, A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture,
Number 12, Winter 85-86).
The story a culture tells to answer the great question of meaning makes all the difference in the world. The story of who we are and how we got here, factual or mythic, tells us what our place is in the great scheme of things. It confers purpose. It tells us what life is for. Story is the binding thread that brings coherence to what may otherwise appear random. It unifies fragmentation. It is the glue that holds together the pieces of our lives. It tells us what is expected of us, and what we must teach our children. It redeems our sufferings and sanctifies our joys through meaning. It places us on life's continuum. It tells us what was before we were, and what will be after we are gone. It tells us we are not alone, that someone or something cares---or that we are alone, and that no one cares, after all.
In this section you will find a commentary on the old stories, before the Bible and the Genesis story were written, and the new story, which could give us a new glue for re-binding our world. . We hope they will inspire your thinking, imagination, and action.
Gathered together on the knife's edge that cuts between Dark and Light, we can see new life budding and rising from Her body. We have the power to remember. We can awaken as though from a long sleep.
This is the story of a mother and a daughter. This is the story of the mother goddess, Demeter, and the daughter, Kore, the maiden of the Springtime. It is an ancient tale, told and celebrated for 20000 unbroken years in the town of Eleussis in Greece, home of the Eleusynnian Mysteries. The story tells how the maiden goddess, Kore, was wrenched from the safety of her world and her mother's love, by a dark god, Hades, and taken to the underworld, his world, to become queen Persephone. It is a story of a heart-broken but ultimately triumphant Great Goddess, who had to bargain and compromise and play hardball with the patriarchy, to procure her daughter's safe passage home. It may even be a love story, for we are never told how Persephone felt, and how she made her peace with her winters as a wife, where she, the maiden goddess of new growth, annually became the red queen of death. There are intimations that she may have gone there voluntarily, and set it up so that she would not have to tell her mother. There were other rumors that, once there, she found certain things to like. We are not sure, and that makes us very uncomfortable.
To download a printable PDF of Ravaged Goddess (80KB), please click here
The Enuma Elish: Mythical Roots of Colonialism
In this paper I examine a set of ancient Near Eastern cosmogonic stories, or myths, focusing especially on the Babylonian Enuma Elish as a prototype, as a means of exploring the way in which a people explained to themselves how things became the way they had become, who they were in that world, and perhaps most interesting, the nature of reality (vs. the reality of nature.) I believe these myths to be antecedent to the stories out of which Western culture still grounds its superior moral and political sense of itself, and its relationship to the cosmos and the natural world.
To download a printable PDF of Enuma Elish (106KB), please click here
Old Story, New Story, Who's Got the True Story?
"Where did I come from? How did I get here?" children ask. "Tell me a story, tell me a story about me."
We are awed by the mystery of entering a world already formed and pre-existing the I that we commonly call "I". As consciousness of self gradually begins to develop in the human infant, it begins to dawn on the child that life does not begin and end with its own dreams and imaginings.The people who populate its world somehow go on when outside its sight.The question begins to form: where do I fit into their world? How do they fit into mine? What is the invisible thread that binds us together in this life? This article proposes a new story for our culture.
To download a printable PDF of The Story (72KB), please click here