Rivers of Creative Fantasy

Water

Carl Jung once wrote, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” Over the centuries, rivers have taken a vital position in our stories, artwork and mythologies.  Rivers are a symbol of fertility, giving water to the soil so that it brings forth life and nourishment.  Yet, the water is in constant movement, forging a pathway through harsh landscapes marked by boulders to exultantly merge with the ocean, the waters of creation.   Rivers represent life and the passage of time; a beginning and end.

The Greeks embraced a magnificent mythology that included five main rivers, representing the emotions associated with the journey of transition.  The famed Styx, named after the goddess Styx, is said to have circled the underworld seven times, outlining the border between earth and the underworld.   Achilles, as an infant, was dipped into the dark waters by his mother who wanted to ensure his immortality.  Alas, she held him by the heel, the one spot that left him vulnerable to poisoned arrow of Paris, during the Trojan war.

The Acheron is known as the river of pain. According to Euripides, Charon, the Ferryman waits patiently to transport the dead across the river to Hades.  The Lethe River is connected to Lethe, the goddess of forgetfulness and oblivion.  It is said that it flowed around the cave of Hypnos and through the underworld.  Woe betide any who drank from its waters for they would lose all memory.   However, ancient Greeks who believed in reincarnation said it was to erase all memory of a previous life so as to begin anew.

According to Plato, the Phlegethon known as the river of fire, led to the depths of Tartarus, thought to be as far below Hades as the earth is below the sky. And the last is Cocytus or the river of wailing, that flows into the river Acheron.

These five rivers are evidence that the ancient Greeks had a belief that our journey continued beyond our mortal existence.  They were the symbols used “to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”

 “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy.  What right have we then to depreciate imagination.”

Carl Jung

35 thoughts on “Rivers of Creative Fantasy

  1. A very profound post. We, although started as different civilizations, have revered rivers as life providers… Indus Valley, Mesopotamian (Tigris and Euphretes)… all major civilizations of the past had evolved depending on the largest rivers of the region. Ancient Greeks, Indians and Chinese had elevated rivers into the position of Gods. I’m reading your article in such a time that we are trying to protect a river from extinction here. Thanks for posting this.

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    • Thank you so much for your comments and presence. Our rivers have given us many gifts throughout the centuries, which we have embraced as though there was an infinite supply. Your words give voice to a conversation that must continue for we have come to a dangerous tipping point. Time is of the essence for our very survival depends upon how we protect our rivers.

      “The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India’s age-long culture and civilization, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga.” Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India

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      • True are his words… for he knew a Ganga better than the present times. Thanks for sharing the words.🙂
        The conversations on Rivers must be continued as they alone will keep the fire of life alive in us.🙂

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    • Exactly the point I was attempting to make. The world, or part of it is starting to scramble to save what man has spent more than a lifetime polluting and destroying these precious life giving sources, our rivers, as though they were bottomless, endless and eternal in spite of our abuses.
      In the province of Quebec where I live in Canada, we are now in the process of destroying the last of our two remaining major rivers for the production of Hydro, to be sold at a loss to our US neighbours, because of miscalculations and iron clad contracts. All this for so called progress, the now overused word our glorious leaders have been using as a camouflage for ultimate greed.
      You are presently trying to save a river. Here is something for you to try to get your mind around… Recently we uncovered that our Hydro Quebec, a Crown corporation as in state owned electricity company, has destroyed 115 (one hundred and fifteen) important rivers in this province, as of 2009. It is likely closer to 125 and as high as 150, as they have not declared all of their earlier undertakings. This means rerouting rivers, which means flooding wild life habitats and nature without reserve. Do the math, and you can imagine the damage to the ecology. We are a so called democratic country, and our lands are being destroyed like Brazil’s forests, all in the name of progress a.k.a. greed. JJ

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      • May we find ways to preserve our earth. Sometimes it seems like a futile effort, yet I believe in the “power of one.” We make choices everyday on how we interact with our environment, whether it be recycling or choosing to take public transit. A few years ago, I decided to walk back and forth from work, which was about 30 minutes each way. That led to my husband and I walking to the grocery store, which led to more efficient selections. We are only one family, but if all families make a commitment in some way to protect the environment (which I think they are), there will be significant changes. My concern is that we don’t think that our voice matters – it does!!! Thank you for your voice – Quebec is lucky to have you!!!

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  2. The last quote says it all. Great post, inspiring thoughts for the day. Thank you so much, Rebecca. Greetings to you from sunny Norway
    Dina

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  3. I like, though I am reminded that Jung did say some rather outlandish things, such as the sole purpose of man’s existence is to kindle light of meaning, which he must have regretted eventually, and long after. Mush like members of so-called mankind, left with a modicum of grey matter between the ears, surely regret not having foreseen and allowing our fellowman to pollute unabashedly the waters we cannot live without, to which you rightly refer to as a symbol of fertility. I.E. most current, tar-sands for oil dear Lady, zillions of tons of fresh water required and polluting our fresh waters for thousands of years to come, and being denied, a denial supported by our elected governments. Water we could be shipping to bone dry parts of the world who are without, and are dying. I apologize for raining, once pure water, on mankind’s parade. JJ

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    • I weep!! You are not raining on mankind’s parade. You have actually said what needs to be said.

      “If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.” David Suzuki

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  4. I do however applaud Carl Jung’s “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.” Well up to a point at least, for I would debate the “All” word. JJ

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  5. Oh by the way, another body of people who sadly don’t exactly see the beauty and nature’s intention for rivers, namely the province I live in, get a copy of “CHERCHER LE CURRANT”, (Looking For The Current) by Nicolas Boisclair et Alexis Cheldere, with Roy Dupuis. If you get the same reaction as I did watching this documentary film, you will be watching it with tears in your eyes, and grievance and frustration in your heart. Highly recommended. JJ

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    • I find that Jung has a unique way of looking at symbolism. I confess that I do not understand it all, but then….that’s the beauty of learning. There is always something you don’t know that is waiting to be discovered!

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      • I don’t understand much of it either, not without making some story out of it. The more I experience life the less I find I know, and with regards to symbolism, there’s even less knowing. That said, I like the idea of Jung’s shadow work, discovering the dark unknown side of ourselves, and that like water/oceans is a mystery. Loving these posts and discussions with you.

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