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Excerpted from We by Robert A. Johnson. Copyright 1983 by Robert A. Johnson. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"A myth is true: It is not true in the outer, physical sense, but it is an accurate expression of a psychological situation, of the inner condition of the psyche."

Robert A. Johnson, We, Part 1

On Myths

My lords, if you would hear a high tale of love and of death, here is that of Tristan and Queen Iseult; how to their full joy, but to their sorrow also, they loved each other, and how at last, they died of that love together upon one day; she by him and he by her.

Thus begins the marvelous story of Tristan and Iseult. It was with these words that the traveling poets and minstrels of the Middle Ages would call together the lords and ladies, the knights and commonfolk, to hear a wondrous story of adventure and love. They would gather be-fore the wood fire in the great hall of a castle or manor and relive together the "high tale" of the knight Tristan and his fatal love for Queen Iseult.

This story is one of the great myths of all time; it has the dignity and power of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, or the Icelandic sagas. Such myths have an uncanny power to thrill us, uplift us, pull us out of the pettiness of our ego-lives, and transport us to a realm of magic,, noble deeds, and unearthly passion. But a myth does more than that: If we learn to listen, it also gives us specific psychological information and teaches the deep truths of the psyche.

Years ago a grammar school teacher asked her class, "What is a myth?" A young boy, the son of a couple whom I know well, raised his hand and replied, "A myth is something that is true on the inside, but not true on the outside." The teacher did not understand, but often children have more psychological wisdom than adults. A myth is true: It is not true in the outer, physical sense, but it is an accurate expression of a psychological situation, of the inner, condition of the psyche.

Myths are like dreams. Dreams are the messengers of the unconscious mind. Through them the unconscious communicates its contents and its concerns to the conscious mind.

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