I believe that there are layers to the earth that cannot be measured. And yet they are there and their maintenance is just as important as that of the atmosphere. One of these spheres is the mytho-poetic sphere, the mantle of imaginations, stories and myths that covered the globe before the advent of intellectuality. Just as the ozone layer had dangerously thinned decades ago through the use of aerosol sprays, so this mytho-poetic sphere has thinned as a result of the prevalent intellectuality during the last centuries.
Prior to the intellectual age, myths were not the entertainment they are today. They were very much part of reality, and indeed constituted reality. Myths were once what paradigms are now: a collective way of seeing and experiencing the world. Just as the current paradigm informs current ways of dealing with the world and society, so did the mythological paradigms inform those who lived within them.
This became clear to me when I studied the impact of myths, and particularly creation myths, on various cultures (see the Power of Stories, Floris Books). In all cases the mythical content directly determined the destiny of the people in each culture; the myth-poetic sphere prepared in pictorial form what later became reality. One of the functions of this sphere was to mediate between human beings and environment: civilisation, environment and myth were an indivisible unity.
Today this unity is lost. The current narrative, the intellectual interpretation of the world, is neither mythic nor poetic. The fact of an environmental crisis shows that this narrative is not only incomplete, but incompatible with the narrative of the world.
Writing around the World is an attempt to remedy this discrepancy through the use of imagination. May aim is not to revive old myths. The relation between existing myth and locale are only a starting point.
The idea is to use this relationship to create new, contemporary and place sensitive mythologies.
This is not achieved by adding fancy to intellect, but by developing the artistic imagination as a cognitive, objective tool. Writing around the World came from the idea that the development of place sensitive narratives is best undertaken in places that have served this purpose in the past. There are a number of such places clearly marked on the mytho-poetic map of the world.
One of best known and most influential of locations is undoubtedly Delphi. The sanctuary beneath Mount Parnassus, however, differs from other locations of similar fame. The Greeks saw in it more than just a sacred site. To them it was the centre of the earth, the seat of the ancient creator goddess Gaia and her poetic interpreter, Apollo. From this navel of the world, the mytho-poetic narratives of the Phythia influenced Greco-Roman civilization for well over a thousand years. Delphi was consulted on matters of state, conduct of communities, health and environmental concerns as well as questions of personal destiny.
The fact that the oracle answered to individual and collective concerns became a defining factor for the Delphi Project. It has prompted us to explore personal and world questions in a location where that activity held such a powerful charge over long periods of time.
The main thrust of our work is a metamorphosis of the dynamic that existed between the ecstatic utterings of the Gaia priestess and the interpretive verse of the Apollonian priests.
We will explore the collective imagination as a paradigm-making tool.
Instead of negating our modern intellect we aim to lead it further into a contemporary mytho-poiesis. The Greek word poeisis is a verb that encompasses all activities of ‘making’. Our making is a collaborative work, enhanced by our understanding of the essential dynamics of the imagination.
Delphi set the paradigm for the Greek world. It seems the obvious place to begin re-enlivening the mytho-poetic sphere of the earth.