Fiction Writing Process I – The Birth and Shaping of Fiction

Various Sources and Resources

The writing process is fascinating. There is conventional wisdom about how to do it, but there is considerable variation among those of us who write fiction. Nothing is universal. Clearly we are using our personal resources, but certainly we all need editors and a proofreader at the end. Of course there is the matter of inspiration. For me, I found some surprises. And those surprises came at many levels. First I noticed that I reached a point in the development of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy when I realized that I had been working on it, in what I call the back of my brain, for decades. 

Sources of Inspiration

And I found the source of inspiration was anything but confined. Over my life I’ve worked in a number of environments from medical establishments, helping people with personal conflicts, assisting in vocational choices and addressing inner city poverty. In the latter, our staff had to do battle with entrenched interests among the higher ups. While they were not despoiling the earth, they were working against the development of a rich new way to deliver services. Such opposition can be seen at all levels of our lives and in our societies.

Many Changes and Sources   

And at the time women were becoming more and more central and influential. My mentor was an extraordinarily bright black women. My feminist orientation was born in those days. Later I moved on to dealing with the crisis management of stepfamilies in formation. And through it all I was getting deep into people’s personal lives in psychotherapy and some of it was simply life management. 

From my educational background I had acquired a fascination with mythology and cultural processes. All of these elements coalesced in causing me to watch the world stage and political intrigue as our social life on this planet developed and we descended into environmental and social crises. 

And more recently women rising to power has become more central as they gained control over their fertility and cultural events defined a need for new roles. I won’t try to detail the process because it is complex and is well covered elsewhere. But we can see their rise worldwide and the benefits attached are truly stunning.

Melding Sources and Themes

When I put all these components together a story was taking shape in my brain. It was attuned to feminism, the reality of growing conflicts and portrayed the need for stewardship of all kinds. And, of course, it had to have a mythological context which enhanced its creative shape.

Shaping the Story

At some point the question becomes how to shape the story. The author can simply start writing, can make notes and can also organize. My wife writes screenplays and in her work I saw something fascinating in the form of Dara Marks’ (see www.DaraMarks.com) Transformational Arc. I recognized it immediately. It is apparent at the movies. Specific elements are built including high points and culminations such as “as bad as it gets” which is the crisis that generally comes about three quarters of the way through a movie. The system does a wonderful job of shaping stories so they thrive rather than plod. I also used Carl Jung’s personality typology to help guide me in developing and joining characters. In fact, I present this tool in my book Creating Characters and Plots which is available as an ebook on Amazon.

But there was also the matter of containment when inspiration was truly sparked. The outpouring began which led to three books. I refer to it as coming from the back of my brain, but we know such things are fortified by the contributions of the right brain. And, with my knowledge of Carl Jung’s personality typology I could see that my personality components were making a contribution. My primary function of Intuition was leading me to speculative fiction and my auxiliary function of thinking was saving me from utter disorganization because it forced me toward organization.

In subsequent posts I’ll give more details on various components of what I call the writing process and what aids its organization and development.

What shapes the story of your life?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Someone Precious – Companion

 

Is there someone who travels with you?

Discovery

She never told me her name. I call her Companion. Often she sits looking off toward a distant horizon seeming deep in concentration. I wonder what holds her attention but do not ask. I think I know.  Clearly she has a world of her own but I know she is there for me. In fact, while I don’t know her name, I know who she is. 

Every man travels through life with a woman inside of him—his anima. Our relationships with them vary considerably. A man’s anima may take many forms and may be touching, loving, a dangerous seductress, a harridan. What form of her a man carries is a mystery. If we are fortunate, we discover her and her purpose for us. Or at least she may be a resource.

Feeling

To me my Companion is a loving creature. In times of pain or desolation I call her. She comes to me and we rarely speak. She knows what I feel and we talk in feelings. To travel through life with her is a great gift I don’t know why I deserve. But she gives balance and richness in feeling and perception. Her perceptions are rich and revealing of truths too often beyond easy grasp. 

She is part of me but also a spirit and I believe I know what holds her attention in that place far away. It is the meaning and substance of the Tethyan people Companion has brought me.

Empowerment

On Earth we wonder about the destiny of humankind. We seem to grow in fits and starts from our conflicts and presently appear to be entering a culmination. Companion introduced me to the Tethyans  and their story suggests the meaning of the empowerment of women. Opposition to that empowerment is strong and bears only bitter fruit but the roots of our beings suggest it is women who will bring fulfillment and help us harvest beauty and quite probably a transformation.

Inspiration

Companion inspired me to write the story of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. The process is rich in conflict but also promise. We cannot be sure, but it seems there is a process of development of a kind we may not have yet perceived. It is all potential and we can hope it will be inspiring. It is a matter of asking what might be and exploring alternatives.  Through empowerment comes true partnership between men and women which brings a joining or interface between the two universal forces of the Mysterium and the Maelstrom. I will explain a possibility and it is best done through the story which is now unfolding.

Possibilities

For me life means being enticed to search possibilities. All things may have meaning but typically are not definitive. It is what they may be or could be or where they might lead that constitute the real venture of life that we have been given. The title of this blog is Cusp of Reality because that is how I perceive the world. There is no firm reality and, as you will see, the common theme of the coming posts is possibilities.  As I said in a previous post my third grade teacher told my mother that I had a lot to offer when I was in class. That meant I had taken a statement or a thought and flown out the window to explore it. And I continue the explorations in the blog posts to come. 

Do you have a form of companion?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Creation of Gaia’s Majesty – 2

Creation with Design

How do you approach a creative endeavor?

The books of Gaia’s Majesty were not entirely designed. It felt more like they unfolded. The concept began to “occur” and then I did do construction and outlining.

My wife, Mala, and her writing partner Laura write screenplays. Some might say its not the same thing as fiction writing but they have a lot in common. There’s only so much writing by pure inspiration which can be done. I learned about the story arc and used Dara Marks’ Transformational Arc for each of the books and for the trilogy as a whole. (see www.DaraMarks.com). I found a rigid application was not possible (it never is in a creative process) but it proved very helpful. There had to be departures since people are people and stories are stories in the creative process.

Life Takes Over

From there the characters took on life and the “what if” came to life as well. I found things coming from out of my past. There were universal forces which presented themselves. I brought in the Mysterium as a creative force of the universe. It is the force most beautifully displayed by women which fosters bonding and fulfillment. When I finally decided to go back and googled it I ran across details about a board game. Seriously? Then I dug deeper and found material about the Mysterium Tremendous which I covered in my post of January 18, 2016 with a further commentary on January 20th. It turns out I had filed the term in my brain fifty years ago when I was deep into the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.

I also brought in the Maelstrom. The name is probably much more familiar. I saw it as the destructive force in the Universe but felt it had a creative side as well. Even as galaxies collide and suns are built and destroyed there is creation. And out of the explosions of suns come stardust from which humankind was built.

More Speculative Elements

From there came further speculation. As the myth of the story developed I found I could not look away from the possibility that there were other types of life forms. Our senses have a specific focus for our life and survival. We might be missing something. After all this room in which I sit is alive in its own way and I can’t feel what is transiting until I pick up my cell phone or use my computer. What else have we been missing?

And, of course, I had to ask the question, perhaps the universe is not just the universe but may it be a life form in itself? For the longest time we naively thought Earth contained the only life there was in the universe. We are seeing evidence which points far beyond our planet. And currently in our life on earth it is hard not to speculate about a coming denouement and the possibility of transformation. And within each event were waves. (More on all of these possibilities later.)

Experiencing the Speculation

A central issue, of course, was creation and whether it had coherence and direction. But, in the end, it is the exploration process which I find most interesting. And the wonder of it all is that we are getting to see how it all plays out with humankind. At least for now.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Origins and Sources for The Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy- Part 1

Inspiration and the Author

Whatever That Means

As soon as I input the word inspiration, something inside of me asks, “what?” At once I understand. Inspiration is defined by Google as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. Does that help? Not for me. Like so many things, it raises more questions than answers and the stimulation is not just mental.

A familiar image is of the author sitting before a typewriter (now a computer) waiting for something to stir him or her or give them direction. First off we have to wonder why the author came to sit there if there was no clear inclination of direction or clarity of substance.

Inspiration does seem to have an independent life of its own. Partly because books of fiction have roots inside ourselves. Nonfiction may be simply our need to give clarity to a real world subject. But fiction is another matter.

A Process Without Clear Delineation

At the same time it just may be that we are wasting our time trying to define inspiration because we are led into a cave with a myriad turning points and possibilities. Sometimes it just may be that we have to accept that we are being stirred by something we cannot immediately define. It may be that where we begin may be nowhere near where we end up.

As such it may be best to see what we can do to focus an idea no matter how vague and see if an outline of some sort may emerge. As a psychologist I often come back to the idea that things are often not what they seem. What we call reality has anything but a hard edge and certainly inspiration may be fuzzy. We may have to simply take inspiration off its leash or find a way to do that.

A Road or An Adventure

In fiction we are certainly looking for a way down a road, an adventure of some sort. The beginning is to simply start down the road. And the road we choose may be very different depending upon the stage of our lives. We may be searching a purpose for ourselves, looking to reveal something to others or even doing an assessment of where we have been and its meaning.

Finding a Beginning Point

Looking back I have to wonder where the beginning of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy really was. There were just two general thoughts. One was that in my life I search for possibilities and that I’m entranced by mythology. The simple explanation was that I found myself focused on the meaning of mermaids. In their own way they are so prominent. As a story began to develop it became clear that women were central and that another root was the matter of the empowerment of women.

From there I found an outline was becoming insistent and steadily clarified as it grew and grew and grew. Since I am hardly at the beginning of my life I had to realize I was doing an assessment and was turning pages to think further about what may lie in our collective future. Together we can see where it leads and search out the substance of meanings.

What is inspiration for you?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Wonder and Creation

 

Competing Forces

There are numerous competing forces in our lives. Some are the ordinary demands of our lives but there may be other kinds we ordinarily cannot perceive. We often seem to be interacting in an environment we do not understand. A lack of awareness compounds the problem.

And then there is the matter of power. There are all kinds of power but in this instance I’m not thinking of what comes out of the wall socket but the power of rulers who run our lives. These days we generally do not to talk about rulers but of government and we hope that it is democratic and serves our interests.

Levels of Management

The forces in our lives require management and those forces may be at a personal level or a societal level. When the world collectively goes into crisis we have a much broader set of management issues.

We address the possibilities in a variety of ways. One way I chose to address them was in fantasy fiction. Our world has reached a turning point in many ways and just when we are bringing women to power. And by that I don’t mean taking power away from men but I’m looking to true partnership.

Ways to Achieve Breakthroughs

From time to time we seek breakthroughs and hope we may move to a higher more beneficial existence which means our struggle has been fruitful. In the end, periodically at least, we are seeking a washing away of what has cluttered our lives. That means we use our sense of wonder to find a new creative form for our existence.

That sounds terribly lofty doesn’t it? In a sense it is, but too often we fail to see what we have created. The world wars of the twentieth century were terrible and at the end there was a sense of exhaustion along with relief. Sometimes after such conflicts we don’t pay close enough attention to what we created. Europe came together as never before and America rose to a new level of prosperity.

Now we face another era when we have to overcome a broad threat to our future. That requires us to again invoke a sense of wonder at the potential and to bring our creative notions to bear to overcome the adversity we have created and to rise above it.

Seeking Inspiration

Inspiration along with necessity are often the sources of the wonder and creativity we need to build for our future. In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I seek to stir the visions of wonder about what we can create and overcome and the creation of a vision of what we might become especially as women are empowered.

What do you want to see come out of the current turmoil?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Wonder of Reuben De Santis

Seeking Character Diversity

In the first book of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy, Gaia’s Majesty: Mission Called, our lead character, Chantia, refers to being among the fishies. Her use of the term reflects her ambivalence about the new life she has been thrust into in the world of the Tethyans.

Of course she has derived benefits such as finding the birth mother she didn’t know she had and the love of her life, Beck. But it is a complex world and she finds special appreciation of the man Reuben who helps guide her through the revelations and turmoil.

The Richness of Reuben

The world views Reuben as an extremely talented couture designer who works in Milan, Italy. While he is, indeed, talented and world renowned, he also is deeply embedded in the causes of the Tethyan people. And that means he offers special guidance and support for Chantia and Beck. It is he who designs their wedding and her wedding gown.

Why Reuben?

Where did this character come from and why was he brought into the story?

While at the beginning there was an outline of this series and it began with a lot of detail, the story had a way of developing itself. Things had to be explained, they had to have reasons for inclusion but some characters showed up insisting on inclusion.

From an author’s standpoint it seemed desirable to have diversity so long as the diversity enhanced the richness and meaning of the story.

Reuben’s Origins

In the world of this story Reuben had his origins in Project Runway on the Lifetime network. Tim Gunn from the series was the inspiration. In fact, that is him in the picture at the top of this post. He is with Heidi Klum who is also prominent in the series. I suspect she is secretly one of the Tethyans. In the series Tim is a man of impeccable élan and manner. He is ever so talented and supportive of the contestants. The man he is seemed perfect for the book and he would help guide Chantia just as he helps guide and support the contestants on the show.

The one problem is that I am pleased to have the character but I could not do justice to the man who inspired the character Reuben. Nonetheless I wanted his inspiration in the book and I feel he offers diversity to the setting and the people.

One Other Note

Another thing that Reuben brings to the story is that he is gay and has a husband in Milan. There had to be diversity in this series. The core Tethyans are mermaids who live in the sea. They can morph and come to land to form families but they also bond and have children in the cities in the sea. These women can reproduce diversely. Some birth children from heterosexual unions, they also have the capacity to form a union of eggs from other women or can clone themselves. These facets of the story symbolize the underlying diversity of the world of humankind. Too often we are sheltered and deny the diversity of possibility. This author felt the need to open the full possibility of this fantasy world along with underlying realities. And Reuben added to the diversity and wonder of this world. Especially because the inspiration for his character enriches our world as it is.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Speculative Fiction – Inspiration, Personal Growth and Authenticity

 

Focus on Our Personal Meaning

Here is a difficult but intriguing question. What is your personal meaning? In the end the meaning of how the world is must be less important than our exploration of our own reality and meaning. In doing so speculative fiction may aid us. And that fiction may involve a search through ancient mysteries that may be intriguing as we attend to our own growth and inspiration. One viewpoint is that such a focus is too self centered but if we don’t guide ourselves through self exploration, then we may have no direction at all. Maybe we won’t achieve a transformation but certainly we have to move beyond ourselves at some point and as we do we have to hope we have not lost our way.

The Core of Authenticity

It was very hard for me not to consider existential philosophy while I studied psychology. I found them intertwined. Early existential philosophers believed that their thinking began with the human subject. Woven in were concerns about disorientation if we did not examine ourselves. And, of course, there was the matter of authenticity. But they wondered if it all was merely absurd and at the same time wondered if considerations were too abstract. It helps if there is a direction or an object and that may mean validating our own personal meaning and giving it some substance.

Confession

Now a confession. These decades later I can’t summarize the works of the existentialists. I frequently felt lost in the depth of their thinking and the subtlety of presentation. I’ll leave it to you if you want to pursue the thinking of people like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Sartre. But, in the end, the takeaway almost has to be the dedication to building our own view of an authentic self which leads to productive dedication and development. And it is that dedication that is woven into the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy.

A Little Closer to “Reality”

I think we’ll stay a little closer to ordinary reality which is difficult enough because it can be quite confusing and ephemeral. At one level, though, considering how authentic we are in our daily lives is worth considering. And, in fact, I can’t completely detach psychology from existentialism. Some of us run into more trouble than others as we try to make our way. And some of us turn to literature to do our exploring. Certainly vast areas of literature are helpful and fulfilling. Again it is probably psychology that leads me to science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction.

The stories writers create are ways of sharing among people the explorations of ourselves, humanity and what our future might hold. These considerations help guide us.

Have you seen works of fiction have large impacts? If so, what works were they?
Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Dedication

The Sources of Inspiration

In writing we often get so focused on the work at hand that we forget that our inspiration requires a statement of dedication. I find that defining the dedication may not be simple and may require attention to the diversity. Our inspiration may be somewhere close at hand or may involve much larger players or forces.

Dedication To Women

Yes, in our love stories men celebrate the women they come to love. But there is a larger context to which we often don’t attend. For the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I wish to propose a dedication to women in general. They are a creative force in all regards, through their activities and through the children they bear for our future. For too long they have been subjugated. And now, at last, their empowerment is gaining force. They are to be celebrated in their diversity in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy and just now in the publication of the first book of the trilogy, Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power.

A Specific Dedication

And then I must make a specific dedication to the woman who is especially inspirational to me. Together we enjoyed the television series The Vikings partly because we both have viking blood and fight life’s battles in partnership. We were amazed and delighted to see the women called Shield Maidens who fought side by side with their men. And so I am dedicating Gaia’s Majesty:Mission Called to my wife Mala, my love and Shield Maiden.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Who Cares About Reality? – Just Live Your Life

 

Do you find yourself ever considering the meaning of reality?

Inspiration and Personal Growth

It sounds so simple to forge ahead in life and find inspiration and personal growth as it materializes. But we do not proceed that way and there is this thing called planning and preparing for the future.

Inevitably we have dreams and one of the ways we pursue our dreams is to read. My personal choice has always been speculative fiction, fantasy and science fiction. I want to be intrigued and want to explore. Certainly stories of romance can be enchanting but I usually want to explore more deeply. If a romantic story or movie involves the theme of women rising I am strongly engaged. Something amazing is happening for women and for our partnerships and I want to explore it.

Colliding with Reality

Speculation often leads us into a collision with reality and may hint at what is to come. Let me give two examples. George Orwell’s novel 1984 was published in 1949, shortly after World War II. My takeaway from the book was that we should be alert to the coming power of totalitarianism. Certainly his projection of the future was born out in the growth of communism and more recently we can see his themes in the intrusion of information technology. It seems we are never alone.

And then there is Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 a Space Odyssey (published in 1968). There are fascinating themes but my personal love is Hal, the onboard computer. I don’t know about your experience but I am convinced that Hal or a descendant is alive and living in my computer! How else to explain its behavior.

Interacting with People’s Lives

In my office, interfacing with people about their lives, I could not simply focus on the here and now. I needed to sight where they were going and how that might interact with where we were going as people. The lives of people became a collage of who we are and what was happening to us collectively.

Being free to explore and to be a free spirit is delightful but inevitably we run into what we call reality and what kind of reality is being created around us. The reality of hippiedom in the 1960s and 1970s was engaging and entrancing. And now the reality and richness of computer based games opens whole new worlds.

An Enchanting and Expanding World

For me though, living on the cusp of reality permits a jump from the cusp of reality into a glowing and growing movement in a new world. It’s the exploration which is so exciting and, by the way, I want my partner with me. In the end it is she who especially enriches my world and my life.
Where do you think humankind is headed?

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Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

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Mysterium Tremendum

 

The following post comes from mythandmore.com which is the blog written by Margo Meck. I’m not going to comment on it at this time. I leave it at your doorstep to mull over. See my comments next post.

Posted September 14, 2013 in Musings & Mythologues

The word “numinous” was coined by Rudolf Otto from the Latin numen, meaning a god, cognate with the verb nuere, to nod or beckon, indicating divine approval.  This word, or its noun, the “numinosum,” refers to any phenomenon experienced as a manifestation of tremendous power felt to be objective and outside the self.  It is a crucial element of religious experience.  For Otto, the numinosum is non-rational and irreducible; it cannot be defined, only evoked and experienced.
According to Lionel Corbett, the numinous grips or stirs the soul.  The numinous produces a kind of holy terror, awe or dread which Otto describes as a feeling of the ‘mysterium tremendum.’ It can also erupt in the modern person as the experience of the uncanny or the supernatural.  Such awe may be overwhelming or it may be gentle as the still small voice.  The uncanny is not a function of intensity but rather of a specific quality. [see The Religious Function of the Psyche by Lionel Corbett for a detailed discussion on this.]
I experience the redwoods of northern California as a portal into the numinous.  The magnificence of these sentinels  “stirs my soul.”  I stand in awe of their grandeur.  There is something “uncanny” about them.  For me, these expressions of nature, I experience as supernatural.  There is something larger at work here; something that cannot be defined; only experienced.
According to Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and Psyche the numinous is also defined as something that suddenly confronts human awareness with an unexpected dimension of reality, something that is experienced as “Wholly Other” than the mundane sphere, that utterly transcends and subverts the everyday world of conventional experience, and that disrupts the very ground of one’s being as it was previously construed.  Jung’s notion of synchronicity can be recognized as the inexplicable coincidence that carries a numinous charge.
For me, myths are not necessarily numinous in and of themselves; just as the menu is not the meal, the map is not the landscape, and the road sign is not the way, etc.  What myths do is to alert us to the possibility of the numinous.  They help us recognize when we are in the grips of the mysterium tremendum.  The numinous can be beatific like Dante’s vision of Beatrice.  It can also hold a terror as when a demon visits us in a dream and we awaken breathing heavily in a cold sweat.  And, the numinous can also be experienced gently as the still small voice. Regardless of the form, the soul is deeply stirred.
My attraction to myth is many layered.  One of these layers is simply because myths are great stories.  Also, they typically contain pearls of wisdom.  They are mirrors reflecting the human condition.  And, I could go on.  However, for the purposes of this commentary, let me say that I am attracted to myths because they are metaphors for life that cannot really be explained directly.
Myths are keys opening the door beyond which lies the numinous.

Margo Meck is a mythologist, writer, story consultant, and speaker. She received her Ph.D. in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA. in 2007. She has lectured on various myth related subjects such as Personal Mythology and the Hero’s Journey.
Joseph Campbell says: “It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.”

What implications do you think this has for underlying themes in human culture?
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