Author Michael Meade on the importance of bringing the light into the dark—and vice versa
In case you just tuned in, things on Earth are looking a little rough around the edges—water and air pollution, poverty, endless wars, corporate hegemony, economic collapse. And the speed of destruction seems to be quickening. While some have decided that the ship is sinking, Michael Meade argues that we’re simply living in a dark time that calls for attention to dark knowledge. He says that this uncomfortable time provides exactly the conditions necessary for positive change to occur.
Michael Meade is a storyteller, author and scholar of mythology, anthropology and psychology who weaves together stories and ancient ideas to shed light on the current crises in ecology and culture. His books and audio CD’s include “The World Behind the World” and “The Light Inside Dark Times.” Meade is the founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation and he often works with at-risk youth, U.S. veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and prisoners. On Friday, Nov. 13, Meade will be giving a presentation entitled The Light Inside Dark Times at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Cultural Center. On Saturday, Nov. 14, Meade will lead an intensive workshop, also at the PCC, entitled The Mythic Life: Accepting Fate, Finding a Destiny from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $85, respectively, and can be ordered online at mosaicvoices.org. GT recently spoke with Meade about current possibilities for change.
Good Times: You’ve said that change moves from the inside out, beginning within individuals and extending out into culture.
Michael Meade: Whether you’re thinking of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Bob Dylan, something starts inside a person and then they find some unique way to express that and it begins to move history. Everybody knows the almost ludicrous process that happens when people try to make change from the outside in. Look at the so-called healthcare debate in the United States right now. There’s no soul in it. Another way of saying it is that there’s no authenticity in it.
“The world is speeding up because we’re coming towards the end of the cycle. But as it’s speeding up, those who want to affect change have to bring a slowness to it. The solutions are going to have that quality of slowness and for me that means the soul.” —Michael Meade
Tell me more about the importance of authenticity.
I work a lot with youth and most youth have a very low tolerance for the inauthentic. The word “authentic” comes from the same root as the word “author.” In other words, our authentic selves are the parts of us that author our lives.
What’s the difference between having beliefs and having wisdom?
The old Greek word for “knowledge” is “gnosis.” That’s a different quality of awareness then simply gathering information. Belief tends to be just heightened opinion. You always hear from Americans, “I believe in this and I believe in that.” It’s sophomoric in a sense. When a person knows something they don’t have to believe it, they actually know it. The rise of mass religions—Christianity, Islam and Judaism—has led to these practices of belief and the beliefs are often tied to doctrines and dogmas.
You’re pointing to the difference between believing ideas presented by an external authority and cultivating an internal authority of wisdom.
Everyone is born with the seeds of their own intelligence. Life’s obstacles and the real function of education are to break open those seeds so that a person lives out from their storied soul who they already are. When that happens, you get someone acting out of inner authority. Most people’s experience of authority is what I would call false authority: dominating collectivized authority, legalized or doctrinized authority.
A lot of people agree that we’re living in a dark time. Many think that changes are needed, but are unlikely during such a time. You’re saying the opposite about the potential to make change during dark times.
Maybe some people didn’t get the memo, but The Enlightenment is over! This fanciful idea that if we shed a light on everything then we’ll know everything: that has come to an end. What we’ve entered is The Endarkenment.
If you happen to live in a culture that’s dominated by white thinking, as I call it, the darkness is the rejected and feared thing. But in ancient Ireland, for instance, they had the notion of the Dark Sun. It was the counterpoint to the daylight sun. And modern astrophysicists have decided that the universe is 96 percent dark matter. So why wouldn’t we become smart enough to learn from that darkness?
Where people are very comfortable, not much change occurs. The great discomfort going on in the culture now is the exact circumstance needed for change. If people want to change a culture, what I suggest is go to the margins.
“Everyone is born with the seeds of their own intelligence. Life’s obstacles and the real function of education are to break open those seeds so that a person lives out from their storied soul who they already are. When that happens, you get someone acting out of inner authority.” —Michael Meade
Tell me why it’s important for people to find their own inner rhythm and how vital it is to slow down in order to manifest change.
At the end of an era, everything speeds up. As the cycle winds down, the turns of it are getting faster and faster, smaller and smaller. The world is speeding up because we’re coming towards the end of the cycle. But as it’s speeding up, those who want to affect change have to bring a slowness to it. The solutions are going to have that quality of slowness and for me that means the soul. A person has to figure out what slows their breathing, for instance. That’s why I think so many people are taking up yoga and meditation. It’s a way to slow the breath inside the wild spinning of the modern world.
You say that the world is secretly eternal and cannot end. Tell me more.
MM: William Blake said, “Everyday has a moment of eternity waiting for you.” Most meaningful practices—art and spiritual practices—are to align one’s self with that moment when it comes each day. The world is secret, tied to eternity. Humans have a specific job to make soulful connections between culture and nature, between those things in the realm above and those things in the underworld. It’s a great gift to be a human being, walking on the earth while the earth is floating in the endless eternity of night. It’s a gift to be getting to do the dance of life.
John Steven Malkin is a writer, musician and host of The Great Leap Forward on Free Radio Santa Cruz every Wednesday night at 7 p.m., 101.1 FM and freakradio.org.