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Michael Meade, the Magic of Ancient Stories.

Updated: May 10

Michael Meade

"Amidst the rush and confusion of modern life something old and wise is trying to catch up with us. Whereas simple knowledge tends to divide things, genuine wisdom tends to make meaningful unity possible."

Michael Meade

"“Studies have shown that we are hard-wired for story, and that when confronted with facts that contradict the story that our hearts have wrapped around and embraced, no amount of facts can get us to release that story. It's actually only a more compelling story that can get us to let it go.”

Nina Simons

"In the midst of all the conflicts currently plaguing the world, our role is to help reveal the underlying wholeness of life and the sanctity of the earth."

Michael Meade

The audio version of this blog post

Music is possibly our oldest way of sharing stories, and Michael Meade has been uniting the two (music and storytelling) in an inimitable way for a lifetime.

Michael Meade is a shaman, you might say. His whole life, he has been accumulating an extraordinary knowledge of myths, stories and folk tales from around the world. He collects these stories, but also gives them a special interpretation that brings these stories back to life and makes them relevant to our 21st century society. He uncovers underlying meanings, revealing the ancient wisdom hidden in these stories that are often much older than our written history. He always emphasizes how the wisdom in these stories can help us find a direction, a compass out of the maze, a grounding in the turbulence and storms we are going through as a society and civilization.

He is author of the books "The Water of Life," "The World Behind the World," "Fate and Destiny," "the Two Agreements in Life," and "Why the World Doesn't End, Tales of Renewal in Times of Change.

In times marked by the disintegration of our collective narratives, Michael Meade's contribution in the search for a new collective narrative is invaluable.

But Michael Meade is not just an erudite intellectual and anthropologist and connoisseur of ancient wisdom. He also continually brings that ancient wisdom to bear in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. He is the founder of the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to education and culture. The focus of his current work is bringing healing through stories and mythology to populations from many sectors of modern culture. He often works with at-risk youth, the homeless, returning veterans, prisoners and youth involved in gangs. He leads day workshops and residential retreats focused on healing and personal growth. In his work with troubled youth, he points the often uprooted and directionless youth toward a new sense of grounding and identity, through the wisdom of the oldest stories known to man.

He is adjunct faculty in depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, where his honorary doctorate comes from, and often teaches mythology and depth psychology.

His podcast Mosaic Voices and Living Myth is an endless treasure trove of (re)discoveries and fascinating interpretations of ancient mythologies and folktales, and the ancient wisdom contained therein, wisdom we more than need at this critical point in our development. And Michael Meade is one of those people who can give a new voice to ancient stories like no other, telling and singing them with his warm, engaging voice, often accompanying himself on a West African djembe,

Michael is also a gifted performer: he is a master at telling those ancient stories, hypnotically accompanying himself with rhythms that energetically bring to life the earth and magical origins of the stories and of our oldest intuitions.

As a great connoisseur and storyteller of ancient tales, Michael Meade is uniquely qualified to bring ancient mythologies from all world cultures to life in this way and to shed new light on their relevance for a different understanding of our current situation. Drawing on stories that seem as old as the world itself, he weaves a complex and layered web of relationships between mythology, anthropology and psychology.

In the first video, he plays/narrates along with John Densmore, the legendary drummer of The Doors. This performance took place at a conference of Bioneers, an organization that spotlights pioneering solutions for human and planetary recovery. Founded in 1990 in Santa Fe, New Mexico by social entrepreneurs Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons, they serve as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions to the world's most pressing environmental and social challenges. You can read more about Bioneers here.

The story he narrates in this first video is about a core idea in his work: the ancient concept of ‘genius’, which in its original meaning did not refer to an extraordinary mental capacity as we understand it today but rather to the intrinsic gift present in and inherent to every child born. A gift that in the original mythological sense is connected to both heaven and earth: to find the 'genius' the child must connect both upward, to the cosmos, and downward, to the earth and the soul of things. And finding one's own 'genius' is essential to enter into and fulfill life's purpose, and to be able to make our highly personal contribution to healing the world and creating a new culture.

He tells the mythological story of an old woman who weaves a very special fabric in a cave. When she has to leave that fabric behind for a while to take care of grains hanging in a pot over the fire, a large dog comes and tears apart the whole fragile creation. What does the woman do when she returns and finds the destroyed fabric: she simply begins to weave again. In the mythological story, Meade identifies the three forces always at work in our world: ‘creation’, ‘destruction’ and ‘sustaining’. And in a very illuminating way he links this story to our role in sustaining the fabric, which represents no less than the entire world and cosmos. We are all called to participate in weaving the fabric of life, and to participate in the dance of creation and destruction so that the two can remain in balance.

In his narrating and performing, Michael Meade connects numerous themes from mythology from all parts of the world, and pours out a vision of a new (but also ancient) meaning of our lives and the potential for healing people and nature, and creating a new world. In what I consider a brilliant way he brings ancient wisdom to life as a shaman, a tribal elder, a seer, who nevertheless also integrates a profound knowledge of the contemporary world into this ‘old news’. And so in the following excerpt, he narrates and plays alongside John Densmore, the co-founder and drummer of The Doors, who, in addition to being a legendary musician, is also an activist very much committed to ecology. Enjoy the amazing performance of these two ‘wise men’! This excerpt requires some concentration: Michael narrates in a very speedy rhythm at times, as this is not a lecture but a performance. So you have to be there with all your attention. And give the stories of Michael Meade space to really come in. It is knowledge that comes from very far back, further than we can remember.

Performance and lecture by Michael Meade and John Densmore at a Bioneers conference, 2015

In the following video another lecture/performance by Michael Meade at Stanford University in 2014 (this time at a slower pace). This time it is more of a lecture, that again touches much of the core of Michael's ideas, and further explores the concept of genius. And Michael emphasizes in this lecture, which not coincidentally took place at a prestigious university, the importance of education, which actually has (or should have) the goal of helping the child discover his/her own 'genius' and gift to the world (rather than stuffing the child with practical knowledge in function of a career, as is so often the case today). And the 'genius' in this sense is also the reason why a child comes into the world, the reason why we live. And he is more than right: we often think that saving the planet and ourselves will depend on technical discoveries and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but I am now convinced that our future will depend much more on a radical change of worldview, on finding our ‘genius’ and on a far-reaching reform of our educational system. (And many other things, including a completely different kind of agriculture, but the other changes will largely depend on our capacity to develop a different worldview).

So here is Michael Meade once again on finding 'genius' and the importance of the 'genius' of each and every one of us for the world. With the djembé once more as a companion.

What Meade tells us about the ancient notion of 'genius' goes against the predominant view today that the universe and existence are an accident without meaning, significance or purpose. No, the concept of genius tells us, we are indeed here for a purpose, and we are connected to the cosmos, as man has always known. We just forgot for a moment now, for the past two hundred years, which is a split second in humanity's existence. And the ‘genius’ in each of us also knows why we are here, we just have to find our way back to what has been slumbering within us from the beginning.

It's a long lecture, but worth it to the end. And as the pace is slower than in the previous performance with John Densmore, it is easier to follow Michael’s line of thought this time. Fascinating and full of treasures for the heart and mind. Highly recommended!

Lecture by Michael Meade at Stanford University, 2014

In the third video we see an interview with Michael during the online conference dedicated to 'Wisdom in times of crisis', organized during the pandemic by the platform Science and Nonduality.

It is a particularly beautiful and fascinating interview, in which Michael Meade gives his vision of our current situation in crisis.

But Michael Meade wouldn't be Michael Meade if he didn't accompany it with a story as well, accompanying himself on the djembe as usual.

Warmly recommended, as is just about everything Science and Nonduality produces!

The Soul of Transformation, interview and performance during the SAND conference 'Wisdom in Times of Crisis', 2020

Robert Bly

In the last and short video, we see Michael Meade as a much younger man, in the late eighties (which is unmistakably noticeable by his haircut, and not just because his hair is not gray yet). Here he accompanies with percussion the great Robert Bly, who is reciting a poem by W.B. Yeats. More about Robert Bly in one of the next installments. Bly was a poet himself, but like Michael Meade he was also a brilliant interpreter of ancient myths, and like Michael he could clarify them in a way that made their total relevance and actuality crystal clear.

Michael Meade accompanies Robert Bly with percussion , 1989

Thank you for reading, until the next episode,

All the best to you!



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