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A Mythic Life: Learning to Live our Greater Story Paperback – October 11, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Psychologist, popular author and leading figure in the human potential movement, Houston absorbed a sense of wonder from her Sicilian-born mother, Mary, a former stock-and-bond analyst who claims to see angels, and from her father, Jack, a TV and radio comedy writer for Eddie Cantor, George Burns and Henny Youngman. Her peripatetic girlhood, spent in Hollywood in the 1940s and in New York, Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis and New Orleans, was disrupted at the age of 14 when her father announced that he was divorcing her mother to marry another woman. Coping with grief and loss, discovering one's "Essence self" and tapping latent creative potential are abiding themes of this unorthodox, continually surprising spiritual autobiography. Houston believes that myths and archetypes can provide keys linking our local lives to larger patterns unfolding on the planet and in the cosmos. In that context, she discusses her identification with the goddess Athena, her mystical experiences, psychedelic trips and explorations of altered states of consciousness, her myth-reenacting workshops and her encounters with Margaret Mead, Paul Tillich, Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, Martin Buber and Gestalt psychologist Fritz Perls. $75,000 ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Houston?psychologist, author, mathematician, scholar, and student of humanity?has had many amazing life experiences, as we learn in this autobiography, including fascinating encounters with other people and cultures. She describes these personal events and uses them to try to lead us toward a new human experience. She illustrates the potential that we all have within us, if only we can learn to see ourselves as part of a greater whole. Houston believes that myth corresponds with all aspects of human existence and that it is the link that can lead us to our spiritual source. The author's enthusiasm and energy are felt on every page, but her writing is not always easy to follow. This book may not be in the same league as the work of Joseph Campbell (with whom she has done research), but it will undoubtedly be popular with readers of New Age material. Purchase accordingly. [One Spirit (QPB) selection.]?Elizabeth Caulfield Felt, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullma.
-?Elizabeth Caulfield Felt, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco (October 11, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062502824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062502827
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Edward Bachmann on March 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Readers of this book will have sharply diverging reactions to it, and I myself am of two minds. At her worst, Jean Houston can come across like a precocious and hyperactive college kid: flip, full of herself, flaunting exuberance, self-promoting, greedy for catharsis, disorderly ideas sprouting everywhere like psychedelic mushrooms. On the other hand, at her best, she's brilliant, scholarly, profoundly creative, wise, kind, and funny. On the balance, happily, I found the latter set of characteristics predominant here, although the less attractive side of her nature will be readily apparent to anyone unsympathetic to her style and her philosophy. This is an autobiography of sorts, although one in a style that only Jean Houston could conceive: utterly non-linear. What she actually gives us is series of anecdotes from all stages of her life, interspersed chaotically with a fireworks display of philosophical musing, human potential pep talks, New Age proselytizing, scientific speculation, and lectures on her original brand of mystical anthropology. Interestingly, she's the daughter of neither a scholar nor a mystic, but of an itinerant Hollywood gag writer, whom she loved dearly and who ran the family like an overbearing-but-lovable gypsy king. Numerous accounts of his lautish stunts pepper his daughter's book and bring comic relief. He was a direct descendent of Sam Houston, the flamboyant Texan general and politician, laying down a genetic strain that seems not at all improbable once you begin getting a sense of what Jean Houston is about. Of her retiring Sicilian-American mother, we learn very little. Dr.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
For some time now I have heard my aunt refer to "Saint" Jean Houston. When this, her new book, came to the bookshelves I thought that it was high time I saw what all the fuss was about.

I was most pleasantly surprised with it. I must admit that I read it with a certain amount of reserve, being somewhat of a skeptic where "mythology" is concerned.

Each chapter starts with a story which lends insight to the author and the amazing life that she has led. "A Mythic Life" will leave you thinking. It will have you examining your life as it is at the moment. In short this is a life changing book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for some ways of realising their full potential.
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Format: Paperback
I have never taken the time to review a book before, but after seeing the reviews posted for this book, I feel like I owe it to others who may, like me, read the book description and think that this is something along the lines of Joseph Campbell's works. So first of all, the official book description, and the description inside the dust jacket, bear effectively no relationship to the actual book inside. The book is written in the style of, and acts as if it were, an autobiography. For a certain element of the public, mainly people who are very, VERY into the New Age Movement and people who don't care to think critically about what they're reading, this could pass as legitimate autobiography. To those who are very forgiving, perhaps it could be viewed as the author's self-aggrandized view of her life, even if it may have not actually played out the way she remembers. I'm pretty sure that it's just made-up fancy-talk parading as spiritualism.

For context, this is the person who guided Hillary Clinton, during her First Lady years, through deep trance meetings with the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt. She claims to have multiple PhD's, but in an interview with Stone Phillips she admitted that she made a mistake about that. According to Columbia University, she never completed the claimed Doctoral Program. She did receive a PhD in Psychology from Cincinnati Union Institute (an "alternative education program") in 1973. The Institute actually became accredited 12 years later. She calls herself a "psychologist," but the New York State board says that she is not accredited, and is not allowed to use that title. These are some of her less wild claims.
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Format: Paperback
Through sharing fascinating details of her entire life and family, as well as people she has known and worked with, such as Margaret Mead, Jean Houston demonstrates vividly how we can all be more fully awake to our lives and the myths we all live by, whether we consciously know them or not. Reading her stimulates the reader to want more of her writings, which are plentiful and available.She also has a website worth pursing, at Jean Houston.org. An enjoyable read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Mythic Life is the memoir of Jean Houston. Houston is a world leader in personal and social transformation. She anachronistically weaves the reader through her dreams, her conversations, her childhood, and her adulthood. With each thread of her weaving, she describes events in her life and how each event or fractal led to her path as a spiritual teacher. Her memoir draws parallels to how people have important past events that help them blossom and fulfill their present lives.

Houston's childhood involved moving often, some years several times in one school year. The moving taught her to observe, adapt, and join groups. Perhaps it was this constant out-siderness that allowed her to pause, even as a child, to see how people interact with each other and to learn how to employ optimal ways for people to work together. She shares her revelations that directed her to help people and communities deepen their creativity and their potential.

It's been Houston's pursuit to engage people and communities to exercise their full potential by spiritually reaching inwardly and outwardly. The text is full of wisdom nuggets like:

"Wounding often involves a painful excursion into pathos, we experience massive anguish, and the suffering cracks the boundaries of what we thought we could stand. And yet, time and again, I discover that the wounding pathos of our local stories contains the seeds of healing and even of transformation."

and

"On her deathbed, Margaret [Mead] suggested to me that the answers lie not with economic or political initiatives but with a deepened citizenry. We can transform the world only by transforming ourselves, for what threatens our survival is not weaponry or technology but the people who use them.
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