Episode 79 - Angeles Arrien Part 1 – Co-Creating Planetary Myths for the 21st Century
“For human evolution to continue, the conversation must deepen.” – Margaret Mead
In this intriguing 3-part dialogue with my deep friend Angeles Arrien, the leading cross-cultural anthropologist of our time, we engage in one of the key 21st century projects – the co-creation of new planetary scale inspirational, normative, and unifying myths. Of the many compelling and informative perspectives emerging as this new world view takes shape is the report by Angeles of the results of an indigenous wisdom consensus prophecy for our time: the braiding of the sky wisdom and the earth wisdom together through the human heart.
See also my prior Dialogue 52 on this site with Angeles regarding the stages and role of an emerging new synthesizing elderhood and wisdom culture for our time.
“Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”™.
Contact me if you like at www.livingdialogues.com. Visit my blog at Duncan.personallifemedia.com. ”. (For more, including information on the Engaged Elder Wisdom Dialogue Series on my website www.livingdialogues.com, click on Episode Detail to the left above and go to Transcript section.)
Among others, programs you will find of interest on these themes are my Dialogues on this site with Duane Elgin, Paul Ray, Michael Meade, Coleman Barks, Sobonfu Some, Vine DeLoria Jr., Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Michael Dowd, among others [click on their name(s) in green on right hand column of the Living Dialogues Home Page on this site].
After you listen to this Dialogue, I invite you to both explore and make possible further interesting material on Living Dialogues by taking less than 5 minutes to click on and fill out the Listener Survey. My thanks and appreciation for your participation.
“Duncan Campbell, I heard about your podcast a few months ago, and have been deeply listening to all the dialogues with your fantastic friends/guests. Your words, ideas, and wisdom are truly inspirational. You have evoked a new appetite for knowledge in me that I hope to share with a starving younger generation. Thank you for doing what you do, and creating a unique space, void of boundaries and classification. A breath of fresh air! Much love and respect.” – Amit Kapadiya
In furtherance of creating and maintaining the planetary dialogues now required in the 21st century, I featured a special series of dialogues with myself and other elders in the weeks leading up to and including the 2008 Olympics hosted by China and the U.S. 2008 elections. Those dialogues can be listened to separately on this site or as gathered as a series on my website www.livingdialogues.com under the collective title “Engaged Elder Wisdom Dialogues”. They address various specific political aspects of our planetary crisis, with its dangers and opportunities for a visionary and evolutionary shift. (We remember that the Chinese character for “crisis” is often described as meaning both “danger” when visioned from a fear perspective, and “opportunity” when visioned from a wisdom perspective.)
In all my Living Dialogues from their inception I talk in various ways about the call to generate dialogues across generational, ethnic, gender, and national boundaries -- building bridges of understanding and wisdom in the cooperative spirit and reaching out -- required by our 21st century realities, and the essential roles that we all are called to play in our evolution for it to take place.
This is the time for renewed dialogue, for visionary and inspiring discourse producing practical and innovative ways of living and sharing together, to engage our own elder wisdom and youthful inspiration, and in so doing to experience and exemplify that “Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”™.
And that is what we all do, in our mutual roles as host, deep listeners, and guests, when we gather together here from all parts of the globe in Living Dialogues.
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All the best, Duncan.
P.S. As a way of further acknowledging and appreciating your part in these dialogues, and since I cannot personally answer all of them, I have begun to publish from time to time in these pages some of the appreciations received from you.
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Duncan Campbell: From time immemorial beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions through the work of Western visionaries, such as Plato, Galileo and quantum physicist, David Bone, mutual participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning, a dya [sp] flow of logos meaning beyond what any individual can bring through alone.
So, join us now as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in Living Dialogues.
I am your host, Duncan Campbell, welcoming you once again to Living Dialogues, and I am truly delighted for this particular dialogue to have my great friend, Angeles Arrien, well known to many of you as an anthropologist, educator, award-winning author and consultant as my guest.
Angie teaches universal components of leadership skills, communication, health care and education. She is the founder and president of the Angeles Arrien Foundation for Cross-Cultural Education and Research and a fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
She is also the author of numerous books, beginning with "The Four-Fold Way" and continuing for a number of other books which we will describe in the course of our dialogue.
And so, Angie, it's just a real treat and pleasure to have you here on Living Dialogues.
Angeles Arrien: Thank you so much, Duncan. It's just an honor and privilege to be with you today. I just so honor and respect your work and your contribution over the years so much.
Duncan Campbell: You're very kind, Angeles, as always, and I want to let our audience know that we first met back in 1990 when I did a seminar of yours in Colorado. We have been in touch at various venues over the years, both nationally and internationally.
In the meantime you have traveled to, probably, two dozen countries or more with your work. I think for those that even are familiar with your work it would be really fun and interesting to have sort of a brief, very general sketch of your own life mystery and life story. We all have our own kind of destiny and mission and purpose here. How did yours unfold for you from the inside?
Angeles Arrien: Well, I've been really fortunate and blessed that my life's dream was really embedded with my Basque heritage having family both in Spain and in Idaho. And so, being raised bi-culturally, coming here when I was seven and then going back and forth every three years because my family was on a three year visa, that I became very much interested in international work and cross-cultural work and particularly in bridging work.
That eventually led me to the field of anthropology because I thought what could I do that would be a field that would really hold the deep Basque mystical tradition before the Basque were converted to Catholicism in the 11th century. Then, there was a very deep mystical tradition that was very land based.
Then, I thought what would be really wonderful is I began at a very young age seeing that there was so much richness from bridging old and new cultures, and that led me into anthropology to specialize in indigenous wisdoms worldwide and comparative religions and international conflict and mediation work.
So, it's been a great journey and far better than I could ever have dreamed it, but it's been a journey that's prepared me from being very land based oriented to really preserving the indigenous wisdoms around the world because there's such important information that every time we lose a culture we lose deep earth wisdom that's elemental and essential.
Duncan Campbell: It's been remarked, of course, recently more and more that our concern with preserving biodiversity on the planet has been done from a real culture centric vision for many years. It's only recently that people are appreciating the need to preserve cultural diversity and not see these ancient traditions now reduced in many parts of the world to small tribal expressions wiped out just as plant or animal species are being exterminated.
Angeles Arrien: That's really true because culturally there is not a culture in the world that doesn't have song or dance or storytelling or doesn't honor that silence opens the door to contemplation and reflection into a deeper mystery. And so, those are the four universal healing salves so that when we lose not only environmental wisdom of most land based peoples of the world the caring and how to work with plants and work with the water to have a deep connection to the animals and to nature. And then also being able to express their traditional values and traditions through story, song, dance, the arts.
We lose something that's very beautiful and good and true about the human spirit and all the rich diversity that it expresses beauty into the world and upliftment of the human spirit.
Duncan Campbell: To me, this is one of the really exciting things about being alive at this time with all the possibilities of finding reason, if you will, for despair and hopelessness, the feeling of deep powerlessness that can sometime overcome one in a world in which one seems sometimes to have very little control over outcome, particularly in the industrial societies where more and more the media which are essentially the vehicles for storytelling and communicating through story a sense of purpose and meaning. Or perhaps purposelessness or control by fewer and fewer large corporate entities with a certain kind of impersonal, lowest common denominator approach.
In those situations we have people like the head of the Anaverk [sp] Communication Center saying that in our time television and movies have become the key vehicles for storytelling and thus the key life blood of the culture.
Oftentimes, we get through those mediums stories that are really not that enlivening. So, to witness with our international communications possibilities now the increasing availability of exposure to these very rich and diverse and almost on the verge of extinction cultures, I think it's really one of the most valuable things that we can experience in modern times and one of the things that should be really at the top of our priority list to bring forth.
Angeles Arrien: Oh, I agree. I agree totally, and I think that it's a medium. It's a real vision making tool when you think about film and media and how it could preserve the cultural wisdoms and the old, old stories and the healing traditions of the world.
That's why I love what's being done with One World Music as well. So I think just as media has its great shadow there is a great positive aspect if it were really turned that way for cultural preservation and also the wisdom traditions of the world in preserving those in high beauty and image. There is a great possibility there, and I'd love to see that happen.
Duncan Campbell: I couldn't agree more. When this program, Living Dialogues, was on Public Television, in the brochure announcing it I talked about the possibility of using television in its original potential as a medium of light.
Angeles Arrien: Oh, yeah.
Duncan Campbell: Because that's what it is in its physical essence, and it could be used to enlighten rather than to narcotize and distract for consumerism. One of the things that inadvertently came through the television for me was when the year 2000 happened and everybody was celebrating the transition from one millennium to the next all over the world.
Angeles Arrien: Right.
Duncan Campbell: The television had, maybe, 17 hours as the sun moved across the globe, you know, seeing people celebrate the dawning of a new millennium. I watched several hours, and one of the things that I was really struck by was when, for instance, the camera went to Peru. There were people in their native dress at a sacred site, Machu Picchu, recalling and linking to actually pre-Colombian and pre-Incan traditions as well.
Then, they shifted to Venice, and I saw people in those really beautiful, bright Italian colors, you know, the greens and yellows and reds.
Angeles Arrien: I know.
Duncan Campbell: And they were doing a kind of Comede Del Arte [sp] like in the Plaza of San Marco there. There were several anonymous people all dressed as harlequins dancing together. In both of those instances, one ancient, one modern within the last 500 years.
Angeles Arrien: Right.
Duncan Campbell: There was a sense of community participation and celebration, a co-creation with anonymous non-specialist participants who were expressing the community's feeling of joy and welcome for the new millennium.
Angeles Arrien: I know. I thought that was so powerful, the switching around the world at all the blessings and celebrations. It was just very touching and very moving.
Duncan Campbell: It was very moving, and also for me, Angie, very instructive because when they came to the United States, what I saw was Barbara Streisand in, as I recall, Las Vegas earning 20 million dollars for a single appearance on that particular night, and the audience sitting passively, listening to a celebrity specialist singer representing the culture.
Then, we went to Los Angeles, as I recall, and there was Cher with six million dollars for her performance. We went to Denver. There was Neil Diamond, and in each one of these places the cultural expression was reminding me of the book by John Ralston Saul entitled "Voltaire's Bastards" in which he talks about how the Western enlightenment of the 18th century represented by men like Voltaire felt that bringing human reason into the fore and illuminating through reason and access to information would be a kind of freeing of the spirit.
But, as John Ralston Saul pointed out, Voltaire was himself a Renaissance man, if you well, a man whose particular wisdom and humanity had a very wide scope. And so, that his champion of reason was situated within a kind of context of balance with intuition and imagination and so on.
Angeles Arrien: Right.
Duncan Campbell: And so, he named his book, "Voltaire's Bastards", because he said that since the 18th century there has literally been a devolution of culture from one perspective, what you called the shadow in the West where the overemphasis on reason has led to a recessive aspect of intuition, imagination, community and the kind of hyper-individualism and reason has led to what Ralston Saul calls a culture of specialists and experts. So, that tasks that would ordinarily be shared among a number of people and worked on in a co-creative way have been delegated to experts and specialists.
The result is a deep fragmentation of the modern consciousness made even more intense in what is now being called the post-modern era.
Angeles Arrien: Right.
Duncan Campbell: When I saw how we celebrated as a culture I saw exactly what Ralston Saul was pointing out, that here was an expert or a specialist in singing doing all of the vocalization for huge amounts of money completely out of proportion to what their contribution was. And then, the rest of the audience sitting passively, really only playing the role of spectator.
That's why I was so struck between that and then seeing these communal celebrations even in Italy, not to speak of Peru and the ancient side of Machu Picchu.
Angeles Arrien: Right. I think it is so interesting because this culture's myth is really based on the journey of the hero or the journey of the heroine which is a myth of individuation and the individual, and that's been going for some time. I think it was interesting that with all of the - now because there has been such an acceleration with global and national and local programs that there is a need to learn more about collaboration and co-operation.
So, it's turning into the journey of partnership with the downsizings and the mergers. But then, now because of the whole international, global scene and beginning to have a global dialogue surrounding the war in Iraq is there is a need to move into what would be called the journey of the tribe or the journey of the community.
And so, there are many cultures of the world that are very community oriented and then leaning about individuation and what we know about individuation and our needing to remember or learn about community.
Duncan Campbell: And that's just been my thinking for the last 15 years, as you know, as well. I wouldn't even say my thinking but the result in consciousness as I've experienced the world through many different sources.
Angeles Arrien: Right.
Duncan Campbell: My travels and collaborations with others. For instance, one of the things that I learned from Sam Keen, our mutual friend and a great American philosopher when I was doing this program "Dialogues" with him on Public Television in 1995.
Angeles Arrien: Right.
Duncan Campbell: He announced at that point a very similar thought that you just articulated and that I had held in a different way, but his particular image, I thought, was really interesting. He said - Joseph Campbell, for instance, whom we will have dialogue about in subsequent dialogue as the great person of our time in the 20th century bringing to our consciousness in the West the realization and understanding and appreciation of these myths from around the world was nonetheless one who celebrated the hero's journey in the modern way that you describe where the individual hero or heroine was on a journey of individuation, maturation, going through their own personal journey.
Albeit coming back into community at the end of the journey, but nonetheless there was this emphasis as Sam Keen pointed out in the King Arthur myth, for instance, of the knight, number one, always a man; number two, always going into the darkest part of the forest alone. He said, "I believe it's now time that we need to ride into the forest together and make a balance between the fact that each one of us, men and women, need, of course, to ride our own energy.
We need to develop and contain and support our own energy, metaphorically our horse. But nonetheless, instead of riding onto this perilous journey seeking the Grail of connection with the cosmos alone, we can blend our own individual path of self-containment of our consciousness with riding into the forest together because what we're about to discover as we move into this next millennium is parts of the mystery that I believe can only be accessed together.
Angeles Arrien: Oh absolutely. That's what is so exciting. I wouldn't have missed this time in history for the world.
Duncan Campbell: Indeed, yeah.
Angeles Arrien: And I also think it is so interesting that globally or cross-culturally there are three processes that no human being is exempt from, regardless of their cultural imprinting or their family conditioning. That's work with self, one-to-one work or relational work, and then group work or collective work or team work.
Every human being is faced with those three processes, and some of us love being by ourselves, and we love one-to-one work, but we hate group work, or others of us love community work and one-to-one work but don't like to be by ourselves. Then others of us love to be by ourselves and work in community, but we have difficulty in this one-to-one thing, being with somebody, another person whether it's for coffee or for tea wondering what we're going to talk about.
It's the mark of a healthy person or the capacity to work together collaboratively requires that we call on these three primal processes that every human being works with on a daily or weekly basis and needs to cultivate an equal proportion.
Duncan Campbell: Well, that's just wonderfully said, Angie. I think that's exactly it because it does also lead us to a deeper appreciation of something that I've long held and that you just expressed a few minutes ago which is that in the evolution of planetary consciousness the deep indigenous traditions that are land based and land wise and embedded, if you will, in a deep, spiritual kind of harmony with an alive universe, have a beautiful gift to give to the evolution of planetary consciousness at this point in time.
But yet, also, the modern mind in its accent on individuation and individual deep inner self-exploration has its own gift to give. There are times, as you put it, where a tribal collective could use the gift of greater individuation so that there can be even more diversity and enlivenment within a collective structure just as in a modern culture where the shadow is that of loneliness and alienation and depression and as Adbusters Magazine referred to it in the year 2000 kind of a malignant sadness underneath the great material abundance.
That's the shadow side, but yet the gift is that ability to have a certain kind of individual mobility and freedom to investigate your own individual gift. When those two come into dialogue with each other there is this great potential for mutual gifting and healing of the shadow of the other.
In a way, that whole process of evolution made possible now by our ability through the Internet, international air travel and the medium of television or the movies have greater exposure to a wide variety of cultural manifestations of the human spirit. It really does give us an opportunity to watch these three primary processes that you describe at work and interacting with one another in such a healing and joyful creative way even as we come to that dialogue with our wounds and our shadow.
Angeles Arrien: Oh, I think so. I think it's paving the way for really a wonderful integration or what would be called the braided way where we don't sacrifice the new for the old or the old for the new and yet braid them together and as a result create a synergetic third option.
I know I was really excited at the World Indigenous Council as they began to look at the prophecies from around the world from many different traditions for this time to see if there was anything that was shared in all of those processes.
They found one line that was shared in all of the processes which was when the wisdoms of the sky merge with the wisdoms of the earth and are braided through the human heart, then we will have a rainbow people. I thought this is so incredible as an image when the wisdoms of the sky, which would be fiber optics and computers and the Internet and satellite merge with the wisdoms of the earth, all of the echo spirituality movement and the bioneers and the indigenous wisdoms that are so land based.
When the wisdoms of the sky and the wisdoms of the earth merge and are braided through the human heart, then we will have a rainbow people which means then we will honor the rich diversity of all the races of the world. I think it is just such a beautiful image to hold in our time that we don't sacrifice the modern for the old or the old for the modern, but we integrate it through the human heart and foster greater tolerance and understanding.
Duncan Campbell: Well, that's just wonderfully told as a story just then, Angie. Of course, one of the examples of that would be again the story in the American context of South American and North American and Central American wisdom coming together with the eagle and condor.
Angeles Arrien: Condor, right.
Duncan Campbell: Just one of many examples around the globe of North-South collaboration, of North-South merging, of East-West bridging. It brings to my mind Vivekananda in 1893 at the Parliament of World Religions when the access to the depth of the great wisdom of India began to really become noticed throughout the culture.
Prior to that time, the transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau were deeply versed in understanding Bacavita [sp] and other great texts from India and the Vedic tradition, but it really burst on the popular culture, you might say, in 1893 when Vivekananda came and he said a great thing. He said, "I see a vision of the West and the East coming together where the West needs to become more quiet and the East needs to become more active.
Once again, there was this kind of dynamic synergy, whether it's expressed in terms of masculine and feminine energies coming into dynamic balance or quieting on the one side and energizing on the other side or the intellectual sky based wisdom of the eagle coming together with the deep earth based wisdom of the condor mediated by the serpent energy of Central America.
All of these tales do, I think, have that in common that you're talking about, and I'm so happy to hear that this has actually come about in such an epigrammatic way that you just put it so well there because it does open us to all of these stories that many of us have become familiar with in our travels around the world and have seen that there are those of us like yourself and myself and many others who are destined from birth to be bridge people.
I'll just share briefly one of my own informal initiations took place when I was 18 years old and participated in France in a Month of Friendship where 47 people were brought together from 44 different countries. All of us, I think I was the youngest at 18 and the oldest was about 30, were students brought together by UNESCO in a tiny town of 3000 in the south of France to spend a month together in the name of international harmony.
Angeles Arrien: Oh, how incredible.
Duncan Campbell: It was an amazing experience, and the essence of it was I saw that people from all over the world - people were there from Communist countries, non-Communist countries, North, South, Africa, Asia, literally from all of the continents. It was clear that people in their heart are always the same.
And so, this phrase of braided through the heart, I think really struck me because I formed my life intention as an adolescent in that month. I saw that my mission would be to be an interpreter or a bridge person between cultures all over the world because it's that similarity that we are destined to bring out and show each other and that the polarities and deep partisanship and the anger and the hatred were expressed through a kind of institutional ossification, if you will, through governments getting stuck in a certain kind of lower consciousness.
And then be the vehicle that would bump up against other governments or structures, but that if we could only get to what as we call citizen diplomacy and bring that through. There was such a deep commonality I knew that was what I needed to dedicate my life to that's gone through various forms of how that's happened.
But, that's been the common thread just as it was with you when you picked anthropology.
Angeles Arrien: Yeah, absolutely. It's great to be here with you today. I really appreciate everything that you do. You are very gifted in what you do as synthesis of many different ideas that you can offer on the spot and weave together and bring in and take the conversation to a whole other level. It's really impressive.
Duncan Campbell: Well, that's very kind, Angeles, and as you know, very inspiring to think that part of what we're both experiencing here in the world is this mutually inspired, co-creative calling to weave together a new set of myths.
Angeles Arrien: That's really true. That's wonderful to make this contribution today. Well, aren't we lucky?
Duncan Campbell: Well, we're really lucky, and I just see that now's the time to celebrate how fortunate we are with great gratitude and to say what a delight it's been to spend this time on this particular dialogue before we go on to another one.
Angeles Arrien: Oh absolutely. Thank you, Duncan. Thank you so much.
Duncan Campbell: I am your host, Duncan Campbell. I have been speaking with Angeles Arrien, author of numerous books and someone you can reach at AngelesArrien.com.
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