Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


September 10, 2001

Developing a new mythology

Walter Escobar is a lecturer in biology.

I was born and raised in the midst of extraordinary hope. Growing up in San Francisco in the 1960s and ’70s was a wonderful experience in that I lived within a diverse array of religious philosophies, ethnicities and cultures, and sexual orientations.

However, it wasn’t the diversity itself that inspired so much hope, but the way people reached out to each other. People could actually see past their fears and connect in a way and at a level not previously possible. The feeling of change was palpable; it felt as if humanity was on the verge of achieving a whole new level of awareness.

What I have come to comprehend in the intervening years is that what I experienced as a child was a potentiality. The seeds of this potentiality lie within each one of us. The ability to create a world of acceptance and understanding, in which people of diverse backgrounds can remain connected and outside of their fear, is within us all.

However, many of us feel isolated and unempowered to manifest this reality. This isolation makes it appear that we are all separated from each other and the world around us. To see the result, all we have to do is turn on the daily news.

Take heart: I believe all the woes of the world are a challenge for us to understand the deep connections that bind us one to another. Global warming, pollution, drug addiction, children shooting each other—they are all the same message, the same challenge. What we must do is develop a new way of defining ourselves, a new mythology that explains who we are and how we fit into the world.

Many of you may have different ideas about “mythology.” For the purposes of this essay, let’s define mythologies as the symbols and stories humans create to understand their true nature, their connection to each other and their world, and their connections to the Greater Spirit (our spirituality).

Given this definition, I not only include the standard myths with which we are familiar, but also the various world religions and philosophies that have developed through the ages.

Humans have danced to the music of their cultural myths throughout time. However, in the modern world we have a cacophony of different myths that appear to be at odds with each other. The reason is the various myths that exist today were used to define the connections within smaller groups, not to elaborate on the unity that exists throughout. Although they all point to the same principle of unity, traditional myths work on too small a scale for today’s world. There is no myth that describes how we are all connected in these days of the global economy and international affairs.

The time has come for us to create a new mythos. We must build the framework for a new comprehensive understanding of reality—a mythos that gives each individual a sense of importance and a significant place within a spiritual context. It is by reconnecting each individual to his or her Greater Spirit that our society can once again become whole. It is not necessary that there be one global myth, but if we want to successfully progress into the new millennium, all of the new myths humanity develops must point to the same underlying unity.

Where should we turn for answers? Lucky us, we live in the information age—what a coincidence. What sources of information do we have? To begin with, we have science. No one can doubt the influence of science on our society. What does science have to say about the universe?

How about the wonderful religious traditions from around the world? All of these traditions aim to explain deep truths about ourselves and our place in the universe. Given the complexity of the universe, it is unlikely that any one religion has all the answers. What if we were to look at all of the major religions from around the world to see what they have to say? I think you would be surprised to know there are many common themes.

What about philosophy? Philosophers are the scientists of subjective reality (our inner experience) rather than objective reality.

Let me discuss a couple of techniques that have helped me. Meditation is a broad topic, and many books and schools have been written or established to teach its principles. Although you can meditate on your own, I recommend joining a group of like-minded humans, since there appears to be a synergistic aspect to meditation; groups somehow enhance the experience. At the very least, others within the group can lend support with the early steps, since novice practitioners often become frustrated by their early attempts and give up.

One of the first things you will discover is that many forms of meditation require you to focus your attention. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in our sound-bite, short-attention-span society.

However, with the support of others, it is possible, and if you have an exceptional capacity you may learn the technique on your own.

Focusing allows the mind to quiet itself and eliminate all the voices running through our brains. If you are like most people, everything from your shopping list to what you have planned for tomorrow is likely to run through your mind as you begin to meditate.

Recent studies of individuals meditating have shown that whole regions of the brain, those important for establishing the boundary between “ourselves” and the “outer world,” become still during meditation. As one learns to focus attention and quiet the mind, the boundaries our brains create for us begin to fall away. Although some might argue these recent studies indicate meditation creates an aberrant perception of reality, I interpret these results to indicate that quieting the mind through meditation allows us to experience the universe more clearly by removing the normal filters.

This is an important point—that we become aware of the connection with our Greater Spirit. We are always connected but unfortunately not fully aware of this state. By becoming aware, we facilitate the movement of knowledge back and forth to our Greater Spirit. This knowledge will help us understand how all things are linked and will help us in our quest for the new mythology.

Counseling is another technique I have found extremely useful. In the same way that meditation allows for an awareness of how we relate to our Greater Spirit, counseling allows us to grasp how we relate to each other. We are all intelligent, zestful, flexibly thinking, loving individuals when we are born, but this inherent flexibility is made more rigid by the hurts we encounter as we grow. As a result, our ability to apprehend the world becomes limited by patterns of perception and understanding.

We constantly misinterpret the actions of others and see barriers where there may be none. It is possible through counseling to short circuit and eliminate these rigid patterns through discharging the emotional component of these old patterns. This allows us to reevaluate our perceptions of others and ourselves.

The act is incredibly liberating, since these rigid patterns are in many ways a type of confinement that does not allow us to grow emotionally and intellectually. They often make us feel powerless or isolated. By removing them, it is possible to see clearly our powerful nature and ability to make change happen.

How many times have you found yourself thinking, “I can’t make a difference?” The truth is, you can make a difference, and working together we can change the world.

I have a bright vision for the future of humanity. It is, in many ways, similar to the experience I had growing up, but in some ways different. It will be a world of acceptance, one in which we will have built a stable framework that will allow this level of awareness to progress stably into the new millennium. Peace.

Got a First Person idea for Emory Report? Call 404-727-0645 or send e-mail to for more information on making your voice heard in the University community.


Back to Emory Report September 10, 2001