"The Meaning of Myth" was the title of the fortieth anniversary meeting of the Society for the Arts Religion and Contemporary Culture held on February 5, 2000 in New York City. The program was planned and moderated by William J Conklin, a Vice President of ARC. Mary Jean Irion, an ARC Fellow, reviewed the typescripts and audio tapes of the meeting and produced an edited transcript. She also prepared a remarkable, poetic Foreword and Afterword for program. ARC deeply appreciates her important contribution in providing this wonderful record of the thoughts and interpretations of the day. The program illuminated the work of ARC founders, fellows and members, including Marvin Halverson, Paul Tillich, Stanly Hopper, W. H. Auden, Rollo May, Louis I. Kahn, and Joseph Campbell, among others. Each presentation is hyperlinked in the menu at the top this page. Feel free to explore at your own pace and in any order you prefer. Don't forget to read Ms. Irion's Afterward before you leave.

 

LIGHT, FIRE AND THE RITE OF PASSAGE

Mary Jean Irion

ARC’s Fortieth Anniversary set off, in its usual scholarly and companionable manner, a show of lights quite as memorable, if not as widely visible,  as those we saw recently on New Year’s Eve.  The Winter Seminar illuminated our history;  and if the telling of it was, for many in the room, poignant with memories,  that telling also cast its rays deep into the moment and far beyond,  revealing a path into the future.  In this style,  ARC entered the year 2000.

Who could forget how time and lights brought human lives, zone by zone,  into the new millennium, how every hour on the hour, city by city shone--the Pyramids, the Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower, Times Square  bringing their brilliance into  our houses--how people cheered coming  across the threshold into  Two Zero Zero Zero safely and with joy?  In spite of ancient threats and modern doubts, human lights adorned the world  all night, while the old Earth turned in her silent ways, the very home and reason of it all.   And there we stood, trusting full weight to that ground.  We could do no other.  Held by her mystery, our own dark origin, history,  destiny  seemed lightened now with high spirits, as sun and moon worked from afar among countless stars to light our way, whether they meant to or not.  Even if nothing out there in the light-yeared dark was waiting for honor, we gave it, toasting tomorrow, presenting what brights we had made with what we’d been given, giving them back shined up like old crown jewels sending up fireworks  of praise  to the Earth, praise to the Universe, praise for Our Being Here, each for the other shining out praise world around in this moment of arrival. 

With a similar feeling of commitment, tomorrow was there all day at the House of the Redeemer, and not by the grace of the latest lights alone.   All the speeches’ fine language, high critical thinking, strong passion for art, with  sixty people listening, taking notes, discussing,  reaching for “the full stature of man ”--where did all that come from, if not from the  Olympian torch that is always burning, passed from one generation to the next, to be borne on its way by man--and now,  by all that’s holy-- by woman?

That day, in the glow of modern lights and ancient fires, shadowy figures moved in silhouettes whispering of coming out of Ur, of a people’s exodus and long wandering in the desert, waiting for one who would come; and of a new stage with its strange, unfolding drama of a godman born to die, whose inner power turned tragedy to triumph.   The great stories are always one with our story, their divine/human characters urging us on, granting the right of passage as consciousness shifts in the mists of being/becoming real people who choose to belong to this World of electric substance, not the least of which is the human body, this huge and little while--

ARC, approaching  through its past, seemed to be studying what comes next, getting ready to write a new chapter.

 

             

Foreward
Afterward
Credits

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