Muse Hymn Box
American author, Jean Houston had added her weight and written about her working muse who she enlists to come to her aid in the process of creation. I love her concept of bringing in other characters to help solve the dreaded writer's block
Since the Renaissance, Prometheus, the god who snatched fire from heaven, has been one of the Western world’s reigning archetypes. But Proteus, the shape-shifter, is fast becoming the model for our time. Whereas Prometheus stood for our seizing power over nature and the elements, Proteus represents an even more drastic step--our gaining the ability to change our very natures and shift from self to self.
Proteus belongs to a long tradition that ascribes to the gods of many religions the power to change themselves into anything they choose: Zeus, in the course of his amorous adventures, became a swan, a bull, a ram, a serpent, a dove, an eagle, even a shower of gold. The Hindu god Vishnu is said to have been incarnated as a fish, a tortoise, a boar, a man-lion, a dwarf, and the Buddha. And, of course, Jesus was not recognized by his disciples when they met him on the road to Emmaus. It was only over dinner that the spell was broken. In the Odyssey, Homer tells how the soothsayer Proteus, was seized, while sleeping, by Menelaus, who had come to him seeking knowledge of things to come. But Proteus was reluctant to give him any information and, to escape, turned himself into a bearded lion, a snake, a leopard, a bear, running water, and a tree. In spite of these metamorphoses, Menelaus wouldn’t let go, until at last Proteus resumed his original form and agreed to answer his questions.
In a world moving through so many changes, the protean personality is the one that flourishes, for it has more points of view and thus more skill in anticipating outcomes. The the ability to shift identities, both outward and inward, is key to the repatterning of human nature that is giving birth to the new Jump Time self.
This new self shows up most obviously in the multitasking, multimodal lives many of us lead. During a recent Presidential election campaign, pollsters were kept busy charting the opinions of a new archetype, the “soccer Mom”--a busy professional woman running an office, who also carpools her kids on their rounds of activities, participates in community life, and finds time to exercise, have a spiritual life, and spend quality time with her husband, if she still has a husband around. And, if she doesn't, she’s Dad, too.
In my conversations with these women and with the many men also living simultaneous lives, I find that most feel exhausted and fractured unless they move into another kind of awareness: seeing themselves as a theater of selves, a troupe of actors playing different roles according to the scene and script for the day. I have often suggested that if schizophrenia, the self that is split against itself, is the disease of the human condition, then polyphrenia, the orchestration of our many selves, may be our expanded health. This is more true than ever in Jump Time. The brittle raft of a solitary ego is an uncertain vessel in the sea of so much change. The polyphrenic person is able to keep a large cast of characters active, calling them to stage front as needed for the many roles we have to play. Each character brings new energies and a new set of skills. If one feels blocked or inadequate in some area, move one persona over in the psyche, and one stands a good chance of finding an aspect of the self which is not blocked and is quite willing to tackle some dreaded activity.
In my local or habitual self, for example, I often feel downright stupid when it comes to writing. Despite this sense, I have produced a good many books as well as numerous lectures, articles, monographs, and seminar scripts. When a New Age-type asks me, "Do you channel your books?" I am likely to retort emphatically, "I fight for every damn word!" Actually, what I do is to call upon another persona of my inward crew who is not blocked when it comes to writing. I call this character the Working Muse and enlist her aid in the process of creation. A block of any kind is built up of habit, expectation, and self-fulfilling prophecy. It can become a massive chemical and protein complex in the brain and body. Instead of trying to defeat this formidable entity, one “switches channels” and brings in another character to whom the block is merely an interesting construct, a problem to be solved, not a well-worn track of sour memories and mental monoliths with the power to impede one’s progress.
Copyright © 2000 Jean Houston
Heather Blakey asserts the right to be identified as the author of this work