This less familiar, sometimes mysterious inner state certainly has parallels with what is remembered from childhood. Both now and in memory there can be an awareness of the wish for sense and meaning that differs from the satisfaction in daily occupations. I can see the need to be more familiar with the differences between them. In fact, the inner part often appears at times of dissatisfaction, which may find expression in reactions of impatience, objection, or anger; or perhaps in daydreaming; or in mechanically following appetites; or in a wish for comfort. If my hard-to-reach inner self disappears in the midst of daily activities, perhaps that explains why some traditions call such activities “deadly sins”: They lead one to lose the connection with the inner sense of “I.” In my life it always seems to be one or the other, but not both at the same time. The myths ask us why this should be and whether a connection between the two levels of awareness is not desirable, or even necessary, to a sense of the whole of oneself.
Our task is to use the wisdom in myths to find a path toward cohesion and comprehension. We have chosen as centerpieces of our study three of the principal myths of the major civilizations of the Levantine regions, which contributed to the development of modern-day Western European civilization. We have available writings from the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, and Hebrews that, thanks to developments in the art of translation in the past half century, can now be read and compared with one another with new eyes and new attitudes.
The perspective that is now possible can provide new insights into the elusive wisdom of ancient traditions. Such insights can be of use in understanding the special place of human beings in creation. In modern times, a period that the 20th Century historian and philosopher, Arnold J. Toynbee has called a “time of troubles,” ancient myths can help in the search for a better sense of the meaning of life, of the Self, or of higher consciousness. “Meaning” in the outside world is only an adjunct to the growing sense of need for renewed internal life. With effort we may approach an understanding of the remarkable difference between the spiritual and the merely secular—and possibly appreciate the awakening of higher consciousness within. Ancient myths contain the oldest expression of who we are. This book explores how relatively well-known myths can be re-approached as a contribution to one’s internal work. The book reveals that myths can effectively support our efforts to identify and strengthen our internal sense of high consciousness.