Personal Mythology
Using Dreams, Rituals, and Imagination to Discover Your Inner Story
by David Feinstein PhD and Stanley Krippner PhD

Read Below for Jean Houston's Introduction to the Book

  A fresh and intriguing synthesis of a mythological perspective with contemporary psychological methods.
Joseph Campbell

Personal myths structure our awareness and point us in the direction that becomes our path.
June Singer, PhD

Personal Mythology is one of those few books that honor and ignite the power and mystery of the interior life. It is an inspirational work that demonstrates how personal mythology directs our actions and organizes our experience.
Angeles Arrien, PhD


Some years ago I found myself sitting on the ground in a village in India watching a television dramatization of the Ramayana. The village’s one television set was a source of great pride, and all the villagers had come from their fields and houses to be inspired and entertained by the weekly hoe in which the many episodes of this key myth of the Hindu world were so gloriously produced. The story tells of Prince Rama (an avatar of the god Vishnu) and his noble wife Princess Sita (a human incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi, and how they have been betrayed and banished to live in a forest for 14 years. Nevertheless they are very happy, for Rama is noble, handsome and full of valor, while Sita is virtuous, beautiful, and completely subservient to her husband. They are, in other words, the archaic ideal of the perfect married couple. Unfortunately, their forest idyll is brutally interrupted when Sita is abducted by the many-headed, multi-armed demon Ravana, who promptly carried her off to his kingdom of Sri Lanka. Enter the saintly monkey Hanuman, who with his army of monkeys and bears, along with Rama, is eventually able to vanquish Ravana, and his formidable troops and demons and rescue Sita. Rama takes her back, however, only after he is convinced of her virtue and the fact that she not once sat on the demon’s lap.

There is never a minute in the Hindu world when this story is not enacted, sung, performed in a puppet show, a Balinese shadow play, or a stage performance. It is the core myth of the Hindu psyche. And this television series was a lavish treatment, filled with spectacular efforts, exotic costumes, thrilling music and dance, and acting appropriate to the play of the gods. The villagers were as entranced as I, for this was religion, morality, and hopping good theater music all in one. Furthermore, they were joined together in the knowledge that all over India at that moment hundreds of millions of people were watching this program with the same fascination. Suddenly the old Brahman lady who owned the television set, was sitting next to me on the ground, turned to me and said in lilting English, “Oh, I don’t like Sita!”

“Pardon?” I was aghast. This was like my Sicilian grandmother saying she doesn’t like the Madonna.

“No, I really don’t like Sita. She is too weak, too passive. We women in India are much stronger than that. She should have something to do with her own rescue, not just sit there moaning and hoping that Rama will come. We need to change the story.”

“But the story is at least three thousand years old!” I protested.

“Even more reason why we need to change it. Make Sita stronger. Let her make her own decisions. You know my name is Sita and my husband’s name is Rama. Very common names in India. He is a lazy bum. If any demon got him, I would have to go and make the rescue.” 

She turned and translated what she had just said to the others who were sitting around. They all laughed and agreed, especially the women. Then the villagers began to discuss what an alternative story, one that had Sita taking a much larger part, might look like. It was a revisionist’s dream, listening to people whose lives had not changed much over a thousand years actively rethinking their primal story. It was like sitting in a small town in Southern Mississippi, listening to Christian fundamentalists rewrite the Bible. Astonished and exhilarated, I sensed that I was experiencing in this village a beginning stage of the re-invention of myth, the changing of the story. No matter that this primal tale was ancient beyond ancient, venerable beyond venerable, it belonged to an outmoded perception of women and their relationship to men and society, and it had to change or go.

The fact of the matter is that we are required to change the story not just in India but everywhere in the world. Patterns of millennia have prepared us for another world, another time, and, above all, another story. At the same time, exponential change, unlink any ever known in human history or prehistory, has confused our values, uprooted our traditions, and left us in a labyrinth of misdirection. Factors unique in human experience are all around us—the inevitable unfolding toward a planetary civilization, the rise of women to full partnership with men, the daily revolutions in technology, the media becoming the matrix of culture, and the revolution in the understanding of human and social capacities. The zeit is getting geistier as the old story becomes ever more antiquated. It cannot address the multiples of experience and its attending chaos. We have become so full of holes that perhaps we are well on our way to becoming holy.

Since the new story, the new mythology, is not yet in place, it is up to us separately and together to carry out the work of reenvisionment. But can one ever really change, or even invent a myth? Go beneath the surface consciousness of virtually anyone, anywhere, and you will find repositories of the imaginal world—the teaming terrain of myth and archetype: holy men and wise women, flying horses, talking frogs, sacred spaces, deaths and resurrections, the journeys of the heroes and heroins of a thousand faces. Having taken depth probings of the psyche of the people of the world many times over, I know this to be so.

Myths, after all, contain the greater story that never was but is always happening. Their waters run far deeper than the compelling tales told around ancient campfires to explain the seasons, the weather, and the formidable conflicts found within human societies and the human soul. Myth does server as a manner of explanation, but is also a mode of discovery, for myth is the coded DNA of the human psyche. It is the stuff of the evolving self that awakens consciousness and culture according to the needs of time and place. It is the promise of our becoming.

When we undertake to work consciously with the great old myths, a rich and varied world of experience opens up to us. We can travel with Odysseus, experience the passion play of Isis and Osiris, wander with Percival in search of the Grail, and die and be reborn with Jesus. Within the spoken or ritually enacted myth we can allow out lives to be writ larger, the personal particulars of our local existence finding their amplification and elucidation in the universals of the greater story and the larger characters that myth contains.

Those of us who work with myths, like the authors of this book and myself, find that our clients and students, have entered the realm of the ancient stories and their personae, seem to inherit a cache of experience that illumines and fortifies their own. They soon discover that they too are valuable characters in the drama of the world soul, pushing the boundaries of their own local story and gaining the courage to be and do so much more.

How, then, can we change the patterns so deeply woven into the structure of our psyches? Until recent decades, I doubt that one could have done much more than alter certain details. Now, however, in a time of whole system transition, when everything is deconstructing and reconstructing, myth, too, requires its redemption. This is the crisis and opportunity the authors of this potent work help us navigate. They have embarked on as critical a task as one could attempt at the cusp of the millennium—how to go about the dominant myths by guiding people into the realms of the psyche wherein they have the power to change their own essential story. They work on the premise that all over the world, psyche is now emerging, larger than it was. We are experiencing the harvest of all the world’s cultures, belief systems, ways of knowing, seeing, doing, being. What had been contained in the “unconscious” over hundreds and thousands of years is up and about and preparing to go to work. What had been part of the collective as the shared myth or archetype is now finding new rivers of unique stories flowing from the passion play of individual lives.

This does not mean the dismissal of traditional myths, but rather that now as the outmoded maps of tradition no longer fit the territory, we must live our lives with the mythic vibrancy of those who inhabited the ancient stories. We are mentored and informed by the ancient myths, and we are also in an open moment, a jump time when myth is re-creating itself from the stuff of personal experience. For the development of the psyche, this is as monumental as when people stopped depending on the meanderings of the hunt and settled down to agriculture and civilization. Just as we are becoming capable of discovering our own personal mythologies, we are being required to encounter them. In so doing, we add our deepening story to that of the emerging New Story and, with it, the new planetary civilization.

What is offered in this book is essentially a technology of the sacred, a high art form as well as a once and future science. It finds its theory and practice in the teachings of the mystery schools of old, in shamanic training and initiations, as well as in the modern laboratories of consciousness research and the cutting edges of psychotherapy. While fiber optics, interactive television, global computer networks, and other information super highways give us access to the world mind, the authors belong to a small group of artist-scientists who are providing us with the high ways to the world soul.

In my Mother/Father’s house are many mansions. Maybe so, but part of our job is to help provide the furniture and set up housekeeping in the rooms of the mansions that heretofore were relatively uninhabited by our conscious minds. As masters of the geography of the inscapes, David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner guide you into a most comprehensive developmental program for discovering the uniquely personal worlds and wonders that lie within. To this end, they have provided an ensemble of state-of-the-art methods to travel and train in inner space. These include guided imagery, dream incubation, working with the Inner Shaman, even rewriting your own history through the emotionally corrective daydream. You will be taken on journeys backward and forward in time, so that you might heal old wounds and transform obstacles into opportunities. Now powers are opened as you learn to reframe your story as a fairy tale, finding within your own body the metaphors for conflict and conciliation, discovering power objects, personal shields, and inner allies. Always reminded and reconnected to the myths of generations past, you are luminously led to become a pioneer in the undiscovered continent of the myths of times to come.

Since culture is everywhere being newly reimagined, nothing is more necessary than a rebirth of the self. This book is meant to breach our souls, unlock the treasures of our minds, and, through the divine act of remythologizing, release the purpose, the plan, and the possibilities of our lives. We are regrown to greatness and take our place with Percival and Penelope, with White Buffalo Woman and Lady of The Lake, with Quetzalcoatl and Bridget and Mr. Spock. And the name of the new character out of that myth is You. And the name of the myth is your Story—reframed in the light of the understanding that has come from this process, and reconceived the renewal of self and history.

“Thank God, our time is now,” the poet Christopher Fry says, “when wrong comes up to meet us everywhere. Never to leave us, till we take the longest stride of soul men ever took.” This stride of soul must carry us through every shadow toward an open possibility, in a time when everything is quite literally up for grabs. We can do no less. The psyche requires its greatness, as do the times. This adventure in personal mythology is one very important, very original, and exciting way to greatness, or should I say, responsible living of the life we are given.

The times they are a changing. Back in that village in India, after the beautiful episode from the Ramayana ended, the next program all of India was watching was the prime-time soap opera of some seasons ago, Dynasty! As I looked at the dubious comings and goings of the characters, I didn’t know where to hide my head. My hostess saw my embarrassment at the comparative low level of American television and, patting my arm, said, “Oh, sister, do not be embarrassed. Don’t you see? It is the same story.”

“How can you say that?”

“Oh, yes, indeed,” she continued, her head wagging from side-to-side. “It is the same story. You’ve got the good man. You’ve got the bad man. You’ve got the food woman. You’ve got the bad woman. You’ve got the beautiful house, the beautiful clothes, the people flying through the air. You’ve got the good fighting against the evil. Oh, yes indeed it is the same story!”

Thus are myths and metaphors recast, redesigning the human fabric and all our ways of seeing. It is the privilege and the particular challenge of the authors of this remarkable book to witness and assist a new story coming into time through the living content of the life of you who are reading these pages.

These are the times. We are the people.

Stanley Krippner, PhD

Click for  Interview with Dr. Stanley Krippner
Describes Personal Mythology

Personal mythology is an approach to personal transformation using the development of participants' personal stories about existential human issues for self healing and personal growth. There are also cultural, institutional, ethnic, and familial myths which influence our personal myths.
A curriculum is given for identifying, evaluating, and transforming dysfunctional myths, beliefs, and worldviews.

Information on workshop: Transform Your Mythic Path: Personal Mythology, Dreamwork, and Shamanism with Stanley Krippner PhD

1/28/2011 - Bellevue, WA
Transformative Groups
Sponsored by AHP

Jan. 28-30, 2011
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