Nietzsche on Mythic versus Conceptual Thinking

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Nietzsche on Mythic versus Conceptual Thinking

Post by tonyd » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:15 am

I'm sure many enthusiasts of Campbell and Jung feel at one time or other completely misunderstood when talking to academics. This is not a new problem but the following quotation taken from Nietzsche's, The Untimely Meditations, cuts to the heart of the matter.


Wagner's poetic ability is shown by his thinking in visible and actual facts and not in ideas; that is to say, he thinks mythically, as the people have always done. No particular thought lies at the bottom of a myth, as the children of an artificial culture would have us believe; but it is in itself a thought: it conveys and idea of the world, but through the medium of a chain of events, actions, and pains. The Ring of the Nihelung is a huge system of thought without the usual abstractness of the latter. It were perhaps possible for a philosopher to present us with its exact equivalent in pure thought, and to purge it of pictures drawn from life, and of all living actions, in which case we should be in possession of the same thing portrayed in two completely different forms - the one for the people, and the other for the very reverse of the people; that is to say, men of theory. But Wagner makes no appeal to this last class, for the man of theory can know as little poetry or myth as the deaf man can know of music; both of them being conscious only of movements which seem meaningless to them. It is impossible to appreciate either one of these completely different forms from the standpoint of the other: as long as the poet's spell is upon one, one thinks with him just as though one were merely a feeling, seeing and hearing creature; the conclusions thus reached are merely the results of the association of the phenomena one sees, and are therefore not logical but actual causalities.
This is a useful reference for such discussions p82 ISBN: 978-1-4209-3455-7.
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Post by Roncooper » Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:21 pm

I have to admit I don't follow all of this, but it seems to me that we do create intellectual stories purged of pictures drawn from life. These are mathematical proofs and processes. These can be beautiful and meaningful for the individual. Interestingly music is also mathematical.

Like I said, I'm not sure I follow the quote.
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Post by tonyd » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:59 pm

Hi Ron,
Campbell addresses this theme several times in his works when he writes that originally mythology encompassed both experience and thought but that at a certain juncture in history (12th century in Europe?)these go apart in the form of 'art' (experience) and science (thought) respectively. One of the very rich aspects of Campbell's works, in my view, is that he resolves this sometimes troublesome dichotomy.

Nietzsche afforded music a special status unto itself, he considered it as close to a direct experience of the Dionysian energy of nature as we can approach. Normally we mediate this otherwise overwhelming energy through what Nietzsche in his Birth of Tragedy called Apollonian forms.

I'm not advocating one over the other but an academic who purges themself of life-images, for the sake of utter objectivity, loses a lot. The above quotation provides a useful antecedent to some aspects of Campbell's writings.
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Post by Roncooper » Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:39 am

Kierkegaard also treated music as something a special.

I trace the split back to Thales of Miletus. Also I don't think the split should be mended, but each glorified. They have different strengths. One can be my right arm and the other my left. I can be an artist who uses his intellect to support my art, or an intellectual who is enriched by art.

Anyway, these are some thoughts.
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Post by Roncooper » Fri Apr 22, 2016 5:05 pm

I reread your post, and I think I am missing the point. What did Campbell say?
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Post by tonyd » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:08 am

Apologies Ron for the delay in responding, I'm out and about in the wilds of France and internet connections can be hard to find. Campbell addressed the issue many times in different ways: in his essay The Symbol without Meaning he writes:
.. a symbol, like everything else, shows a double aspect. We must distinguish, therefore between the 'sense' and the 'meaning' of the symbol. It seems to me perfectly clear that all the great and little symbolical systems of the past functioned simultaneously on three levels: the corporeal of waking consciousness, the spiritual of dream, and the ineffable of the absolutely unknowable. The term 'meaning' can refer only to the first two but these, today, are in the charge of science – which is the province as we have said, not of symbols but of signs. The ineffable, the absolutely unknowable, can be only sensed. It is the province of art which is not 'expression' merely, or even primarily, but a quest for, and formulation of, experience evoking, energy-waking images: yielding what Sir Herbert Read has aptly termed a 'sensuous apprehension of being
Do we lose, or risk, anything if we ignore the ineffable dimension addressed by art? Carl Jung I think answers this question well:
If we cannot deny the archetypes or otherwise neutralize them, we are confronted, at every new stage in the differentiation of consciousness to which civilization attains, with the task of finding a new interpretation appropriate to this stage, in order to connect to the life of the past that still exists in us with the life of the present, which threatens to slip away from it. If this link-up does not take place, a kind of rootless consciousness comes into being no longer oriented to the past, a consciousness which succumbs helplessly to all manner of suggestions and, in practice, is susceptible to psychic epidemics.
On a personal note, I'm a bit of an insomniac and I sometimes set myself the task of trying to decipher a fairy tale or myth in my mind when I wake up in the night. Last night I set myself the such task but when I fell back asleep my imagination stumbled, only for a few moments, into the ineffable realm, which, was clothed in images taken from Nordic mythology. The experience is always shocking.
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Post by JamesN. » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:11 pm

tonyd wrote:Apologies Ron for the delay in responding, I'm out and about in the wilds of France and internet connections can be hard to find. Campbell addressed the issue many times in different ways: in his essay The Symbol without Meaning he writes:
.. a symbol, like everything else, shows a double aspect. We must distinguish, therefore between the 'sense' and the 'meaning' of the symbol. It seems to me perfectly clear that all the great and little symbolical systems of the past functioned simultaneously on three levels: the corporeal of waking consciousness, the spiritual of dream, and the ineffable of the absolutely unknowable. The term 'meaning' can refer only to the first two but these, today, are in the charge of science – which is the province as we have said, not of symbols but of signs. The ineffable, the absolutely unknowable, can be only sensed. It is the province of art which is not 'expression' merely, or even primarily, but a quest for, and formulation of, experience evoking, energy-waking images: yielding what Sir Herbert Read has aptly termed a 'sensuous apprehension of being
Do we lose, or risk, anything if we ignore the ineffable dimension addressed by art? Carl Jung I think answers this question well:
If we cannot deny the archetypes or otherwise neutralize them, we are confronted, at every new stage in the differentiation of consciousness to which civilization attains, with the task of finding a new interpretation appropriate to this stage, in order to connect to the life of the past that still exists in us with the life of the present, which threatens to slip away from it. If this link-up does not take place, a kind of rootless consciousness comes into being no longer oriented to the past, a consciousness which succumbs helplessly to all manner of suggestions and, in practice, is susceptible to psychic epidemics.
On a personal note, I'm a bit of an insomniac and I sometimes set myself the task of trying to decipher a fairy tale or myth in my mind when I wake up in the night. Last night I set myself the such task with a modicum of success but when I fell back asleep my imagination stumbled, only for a few moments, into the ineffable realm, which, inexplicably, was fashioned from images taken from Norse mythology. The experience is always shocking.

Welcome back Tonyd.

This is a great subject you bring up concerning the difference between the mythic and the conceptual; and one that in my view is particularly relevant to what is playing out across the planet. As you point out how one reads a "symbol" has everything to do with one's perception of how they navigate different planes of consciousness within their interpretation of reality and the world in which they inhabit. (And some of Joseph's ideas about how to read a symbol are covered quite well in Diane Osbon's "Reflections on the Art of Living - A Joseph Campbell Companion".) But without going into too much detail I think it goes without saying that in the larger sense art, science, and religion all have roles sociologically and culturally speaking; but it is here where Joseph understood there was a larger context within which these approaches operated. This is where Carl Jung comes in as you point out and shows how these inter-relationships within the human mind are constellated and are acted out across history. And within certain religious symbols that are used as vehicles of doctrine; whether concretized or metaphorically interpreted; nowhere are the effects more evident than in the conflicts that are now taking place; not only here in the west; but also across the Middle and Far East in how the "religious" interpretation of a symbol is utilized. (It kind of reminds me of the image of "a ship without a rudder floating across time" in a way; as in the "Power of Myth" Joseph mentioned the state of "terminal moraine of mythological rubble" the world is experiencing now.)

Artistically speaking: Pablo Picasso's painting "Guernica"; (a tapestry copy of which is displayed at the United Nation's building); is considered by many to be one of the ultimate symbols regarding "man's inhumanity to man" for instance. And as quoted in one Wikipedia link:

Guernica is to painting what Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is to music: a cultural
icon that speaks to mankind not only against war but also of hope and peace.
It is a reference when speaking about genocide from El Salvador to Bosnia.

Alejandro Escalona, on the 75th anniversary of the painting's creation[5]
(Joseph really liked Picasso so if interested on more):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Picasso


In the end if I am understanding your point about how one interprets a symbol or myth, it has everything to do with not only subject matter but context as well. I like this quote of Joseph's in the larger view of things; but it's Jung I think that helps to clarify how the human mental interior dynamics are; you might say; mechanically arranged or ordered.
"A mythological order is a system of images that gives consciousness a sense of meaning in existence, which, my dear friend, has no meaning––it simply is. But the mind goes asking for meanings; it can't play unless it knows (or makes up) the rules.

"Mythologies present games to play: how to make believe you're doing thus and so. Ultimately, through the game, you experience that positive thing which is the experience of being-in-being, of living meaningfully. That's the first function of a mythology, to evoke in the individual a sense of grateful affirmative awe before the monstrous mystery that is existence."

Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss, p. 6

(This is a very nice topic that emphasizes Joseph Campbell's ideas Tonyd.) :)
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Post by Andreas » Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:48 am

Hey guys. Indeed very interesting conversation.

My own understanding on the matter is that there is no difference between conceptual thinking and mythic thinking. The mythic is also conceptual.

The difference exists between mythology which tries to impose meaning and an experience that goes beyond meaning e.g. Zen. Zen or the mind that goes beyond concepts is like what breathing is to the body. The body does not think how to breath it just happens. Good art I believe also does that. It aims for an impact instead of an answer.

Personally I am more attracted to this mode of thinking than the mythic one and that is because all mythologies (art, religion, science, personal, etc) try to understand something that is never meant to be understood. Like Campbell said something that goes even beyond the concept of reality but the mind seeks for meaning and its an organ that must not put itself in control and must serve the humanity of the body.

Anyways..maybe I am missing something but this is how I understand it.

Thoughts? :)
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Post by tonyd » Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:02 am

Hi James,
Yes, I agree with you on all points and I found Campbell's discussion of Guernica fascinating. Following Campbell's approach, and using Jung, Von Franz and Hillman et al for the psychological dimension, I'm moving tentatively towards viewing myths as narratives that encapsulate the major thresholds crossed by Homo sapiens as it has gradually gained a degree of consciousness. This is why, when an individual, or community, is severely traumatized, the psyche uses these systems of imagery as part of the coping, and sometimes healing, process. Indeed, as noted by Jung or Hillman (not sure which) trauma properly addressed is one of the mechanisms for the advancement of consciousness. But this is a different discussion.

Hi Andreas,
I simply have to disagree while acknowledging that according to Jungian personality types we all experience reality differently and that this is a good thing.
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Post by Andreas » Tue Apr 26, 2016 11:18 am

But you agree when Campbell says that
"A mythological order is a system of images that gives consciousness a sense of meaning in existence, which, my dear friend, has no meaning––it simply is. But the mind goes asking for meanings; it can't play unless it knows (or makes up) the rules."
Doesn't that say that myth is also about conceptual thinking? Like I said maybe I am missing something but it seems to me that mythology is all about ideas or concepts that make sense and give meaning.
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Post by JamesN. » Tue Apr 26, 2016 11:44 am

tonyd wrote:Hi James,
Yes, I agree with you on all points and I found Campbell's discussion of Guernica fascinating. Following Campbell's approach, and using Jung, Von Franz and Hillman et al for the psychological dimension, I'm moving tentatively towards viewing myths as narratives that encapsulate the major thresholds crossed by Homo sapiens as it has gradually gained a degree of consciousness. This is why, when an individual, or community, is severely traumatized, the psyche uses these systems of imagery as part of the coping, and sometimes healing, process. Indeed, as noted by Jung or Hillman (not sure which) trauma properly addressed is one of the mechanisms for the advancement of consciousness. But this is a different discussion.

Hi Andreas,
I simply have to disagree while acknowledging that according to Jungian personality types we all experience reality differently and that this is a good thing.

Here is a very insightful quote of Joseph's taken from the Michael Tom's "Open Life" interviews that I think may confirm some of your suspicions Tony. As you may already know Heinrich Zimmer was also a close friend of Jung's so you have not only the Eastern and Western cosmologies addressed; but the comparative approach of Joseph's as well as the psychological interpretations of Jung.


" You know for some people " Jungian " is a nasty word. and it has been flung at me by certain reviewers as though to say, " Don't bother with Joe Campbell; he is a Jungian. " I'm not a Jungian! As far as interpreting myths, Jung gives me the best clues I've got. But I'm much more interested in diffusion and relationships historically than Jung was, so that the Jungians think of me as a kind of questionable person. I don't use those formula words very often in my interpretation of myths, but Jung gives me the background from which to let the myth talk to me.

If I do have a guru of that sort, it would be Zimmer - the one who really gave me the courage to interpret the myths out of what I knew of their common symbols. There's always a risk there, but it's the risk of your own personal adventure instead of just gluing yourself to what someone else has found. "

IMHO Joseph saw that within the larger mosaic of human history was the idea of a (personal myth) that Carl Jung proposed that was imbedded and expressed deep within the dialogue between the unconscious and conscious that was informed; so to speak; by the historical cultural interpretations in which they lived. Yet at the same time these attempts to convey or render a sense of this ultimate mystery of existence was limited by the boundaries of the "science of the day"; as Joe use to say. This was in a larger sense as he saw it; the (MonoMyth), or what is now more popularly known as "The Hero's Journey"; which might be seen as a sort of template from which modern man might draw from to guide him; or (her); through the various stages of a human lifetime.

(On a side note; indeed your mention of your dream encounter with the Norse mythology reminds me of a quote that was used in: "The Power of Myth" from the chapter of "The First Storytellers".)



The animal envoys of the Unseen Power no longer serve., as in primeval times, to teach and to guide mankind. Bears, lions, elephants, ibexes, and gazelles are in cages in our zoos. Man is no longer the newcomer in a world of unexplored plains and forests, and our immediate neighbors are not wild beasts but other human beings, contending for goods and space on a planet that is whirling without end around the fireball of a star. Neither in body or in mind do we inhabit the world of those hunting races of the Paleolithic millennia, to whose lives and life ways we nevertheless owe the very forms of our bodies and structures of our minds. Memories of their animal envoys still must sleep, somehow, within us; for they wake a little and stir when we venture into wilderness. They wake in terror to thunder. And again they wake, with a sense of recognition, when we enter any one of those great painted caves. Whatever the inward darkness may have been to which the shamans of those caves descended in their trances, the same must lie within ourselves, nightly visited in sleep.

-Joseph Campbell,
The Way of the Animal Powers



Namaste :)
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Post by JamesN. » Tue Apr 26, 2016 4:12 pm

Somewhere in this topic I believe there is a place for this:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS1esgRV4Rc



Clemsy and I both have posted references to this quote on different occasions and I think it is because it sums up an attempt to describe something within the "realm of the muses"; (which by the way is also the same realm that myth inhabits); better than any other I can think of. It is neither totally conceptual nor necessarily mythical in nature; yet it reaches for something within the transcendent that seems to connect them in a way that is both accessible mentally; yet within a sensual and even emotional context. (As an example; it is Spring as I write this; yet how does one adequately describe or express what the sensation of being so truly alive that this experience of the season communicates? :idea: )
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" ~John Keating, The Dead Poet Society



I don't know if this particular idea is necessarily applicable to the subject at hand; but it has referenced an unresolved conundrum within me that I've been trying to put into words for quite some time. (At any rate I feel better now; LOL)

Cheers
:)
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Post by Andreas » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:03 pm

Sure James,

I ask again what is the difference from everything else?

Image

Its all related it seems to me.
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Post by JamesN. » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:26 pm

Andreas wrote:Sure James,

I ask again what is the difference from everything else?

Image

Its all related it seems to me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ153YJCEc8
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Post by Andreas » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:47 pm

The video is not available says youtube.

I re-read the whole thread just in case I was missing something and indeed I have to agree with Ron.
Roncooper wrote:I have to admit I don't follow all of this, but it seems to me that we do create intellectual stories purged of pictures drawn from life. These are mathematical proofs and processes. These can be beautiful and meaningful for the individual. Interestingly music is also mathematical.

Like I said, I'm not sure I follow the quote.
The stories may appear intellectual but I believe they draw elements from something deeper.. Call it experience, call it mythical, call it conceptual... whatever, its life.
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