Nietzsche on Mythic versus Conceptual Thinking

Do you have a conversation topic that doesn't seem to fit any of the other conversations? Here is where we discuss ANYTHING about Joseph Campbell, comparative mythology, and more!

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Post by JamesN. » Tue Apr 26, 2016 11:31 pm

Campbell addressed the issue many times in different ways: in his essay The Symbol without Meaning he writes:


Quote:
.. 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

Try these youtube links and see if they will play on your internet connection. The second one is a full lecture on Joseph Campbell's: "The Symbol Without Meaning" taken from his book: "The Wild Gander". The above quote Tonyd used I believe is taken directly from that piece. John Lobell is a founding board member of the JCF and really knows this material well. He has a new book out by the way that is featured in the latest JCF MythBlast newsletter.

The link I sent you is good and was a short clip by Joseph covering the same concept. I think the problem has to do with certain youtube internet player concerns because this has come up before when I have tried to send one of these JCF channel clips. (However); you may be able to access them directly through you own connection by going direct to the Wisdom forum link and scrolling down to the link I provided that way. This link to the JCF video youtube channel has hundreds of short clips; (yes that's right - hundreds); taken from Joseph's lectures that have been collected by the staff volunteers targeting specific concepts that feature Joseph Campbell giving the talks and are not to be missed. For me they have been invaluable in understanding much of his material that has up till now been inaccessible. (Just keep clicking the reload button at the bottom of the page for more clips to be loaded.) Since Google owns YouTube your internet provider perhaps might have something to do with whether this will help you to access this site. I use both Yahoo and Google through Internet Explorer here in the US. If all else fails try typing #JosephCampbell in the YouTube search bar; and then click on the videos tab. ( This is how I found it. ) Other than that I'm not sure what else will work. Maybe technical support might be able to help.

The link to the forum page is below; then click the first entry link I provided and you should be able to search the various clips from there:



http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5250


(The link for the John Lobell lecture is here.):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm-lGhfFW9I


This is as close as I can get to breaking all this down. I hope it helps.


Namaste :)
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Post by Andreas » Wed Apr 27, 2016 2:04 am

James thank you. That is an amazing link. Watched half of it will watch the rest tomorrow.

Personally I believe that science being the product of the human mind also incorporates this ineffable dimension that you guys talk about that supposedly only exists in art.

One only has to look at some of the scientific theories and wonder if they came out of a surrealistic dream. Time that shrinks, space that bends, quantum phenomena, is some of the stuff that make the mind boggle.

Tonyd said
Do we lose, or risk, anything if we ignore the ineffable dimension addressed by art?
This dimension exists a priori in humans because we are part of nature and the true nature of reality is elusive and this experience is not exclusive to any mode of thinking and it will manifest in whatever reality a person chooses to believe in.

I am not sure why Campbell dismissed the idea that science too shares this dimension (maybe he didnt?) but I will look into it.

Anyways.. :)
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Post by Roncooper » Wed Apr 27, 2016 2:22 am

James,

Thank you for the links. Very interesting.

If you want to know the meaning of a flower ask the flower, or a bee, or a gardener. I think a flower has a thousand meanings. If you have to ask then you are in trouble, and if you think it has no meaning then you are lost.

I could go on and on and on about Campbell's ideas, but I won't, Harmony uber alles.
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. -Isaac Newton
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Post by tonyd » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:58 am

Delightful responses. Brightened up my morning!

Thanks James for that quotation about Campbell about Jungians, I always wondered how he viewed this relationship. The Dead Poets' Society is perfect example too of the conflict between life experienced and life abstracted to the point that all emotion and experience has been leeched from it. It also highlights the tension and antagonism between a life well lived and the demands of fitting in and getting along in society (speaking of which I was very sad at the passing of Robin Williams).

It is true, Andreas, that when Einstein had the insight that the effects of 'gravity' and 'acceleration' are indistinguishable anywhere in the universe, he experienced a kind of pure joy even though he was thinking in conceptual terms. On a more prosaic level the following quotation by T.S. Eliot (The Dry Salvages) is one which complements the Whitman lines quoted above and perhaps suggests the different nature of mythic thinking:
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations — not forgetting
Something that is probably quite ineffable.
I'm older than many of you and my aged brain does not really think in concepts so much as meditates upon them. And increasingly such meditation seems to bring to the surface these 'powers that sleep within' which are typically accompanied by a numinous charge. Equally the contemplation of a flower, as Ron mentions,The Buddha's Flower Sermon, is its own message and can provide the joy we need to sustain us through life's challenges.
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Post by Andreas » Wed Apr 27, 2016 11:33 am

I'm older than many of you and my aged brain does not really think in concepts so much as meditates upon them. - Tony
All thinking is meditation. :)

But talking about meaning.. *Cough*

Dead Poets Society meaning is not about being an artist or about having a different experience. Its about being true to your own nature whatever that nature is.. seems to me.

Btw just so you guys know where I am coming from.. I have been a champion of art and of this experience that you guys talk about but as of lately I had a revelation and became an existentialist and a rather cynical one too (lol).
“You know what I think?" she says. "That people's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn't matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They're all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed 'em to the fire, they're all just paper. The fire isn't thinking 'Oh, this is Kant,' or 'Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,' or 'Nice tits,' while it burns. To the fire, they're nothing but scraps of paper. It's the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there's no distinction--they're all just fuel.” ― Haruki Murakami, After Dark
Now about the Flower Sermon...
If you want to know the meaning of a flower ask the flower, or a bee, or a gardener. I think a flower has a thousand meanings. If you have to ask then you are in trouble, and if you think it has no meaning then you are lost. - Ron
Still you have to wander through the darkness of meaningless before you can realize that the flower has a thousand meanings. So getting lost sometimes is good if you can find your way afterwards.

Thats all folks, off to watch the rest of James video. 8)
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Post by Roncooper » Thu Apr 28, 2016 1:14 pm

I studied Existentialism in college. I loved its cleverness. I left it behind when I realized that nothing is just this or just that. Both science and mysticism have shown that everything is connected. There is no flower without bees and fields, and planets.

The burning page is the immanent and transcendent mystery becoming tomorrow. The Hindus call it the dance of Shiva. It is not just a lonely little sheet of paper disappearing forever.

As a physicist who devoted his life to science, I can say that this view is as reasonable and logical as any I have studied.

However, I keep my mind open. I have been wrong before.
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Post by Andreas » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:56 am

I studied Existentialism in college. I loved its cleverness. I left it behind when I realized that nothing is just this or just that. Both science and mysticism have shown that everything is connected. There is no flower without bees and fields, and planets. - Ron
There is also no science and mysticism outside human experience. Everything originates in the human experience. We make these constructs of reality but the true nature of reality is elusive. Whether everything is connected or not is irrelevant, the universe is indifferent.

You tell me transcendent experience or materialistic experience. Conceptual thinking or mythical thinking. High or low art. I say there is no distinction! Its all fuel.

The transcendent experience is nice but maybe its fuel, like everything else.

Also I dont think its about being right or wrong if it makes sense to me or to you respectively, its all good.
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Post by Roncooper » Fri Apr 29, 2016 2:01 am

There is also no science and mysticism outside human experience. Everything originates in the human experience. We make these constructs of reality but the true nature of reality is elusive. Whether everything is connected or not is irrelevant, the universe is indifferent.
This makes no sense to me. I experience the immanent and transcendent reality. It became me and it is the source. My psychological reaction is a reaction to objective reality. It is the immanent and transcendent environment that makes all the rules.

Rocks and stars may be indifferent but living things are not. Most want to eat you, some hate you, and many work for your benefit, but they are not indifferent.
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Post by Andreas » Fri Apr 29, 2016 8:48 am

I experience it too Ron, but it doesn't change the fact that it is a subjective experience. The flower has a thousand meanings after all, right?

But lets agree to disagree on this one.
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Post by Roncooper » Fri Apr 29, 2016 1:18 pm

Maybe it is just me, but I think it is better to have a thousand meanings than it is to have just one.

This relates to the "Its all relative" argument. For example the Beauty is in the eye of the beholder observation. There are people who think that beauty's ability to take many forms means that beauty doesn't exist somehow. For me it is just the opposite. Its ability to take on many forms and even be personal only makes it more mysterious and powerful, in my eyes.
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Post by Roncooper » Fri Apr 29, 2016 2:27 pm

Just came across this link about music.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/03/1 ... -on-music/
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Post by JamesN. » Fri Apr 29, 2016 3:29 pm

Roncooper wrote:Just came across this link about music.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/03/1 ... -on-music/
Very nice piece about music Ron. IMHO it seems to beg the question: ("How can something be both verbal and "nonverbal"; communicate so much; so deeply; so moving; and yet can reach beyond the normal barriers of language, time, and space and remain the same yet so infinite in possibility?"). It reminds me of the saying about: If you pluck a "perfectly" tuned string in a room with another instrument with another string tuned to the exact same pitch - (that string will resonate as well). Perhaps you might say in a sense it is that music in it's own way has this similar ability to move us all; no matter our age, gender, or culture. :idea:
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Post by JamesN. » Fri Apr 29, 2016 5:02 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 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.

(And):


Tonyd:
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.

Tony as a follow up concerning "music" as part of your earlier post this seems to suggest to me a direct experience of the effect that art can have on the psyche. This in my view points directly to the relationship of the Archetype - Archetypal Image and the Collective Unconscious and how the relationship of "The Self" to the (Ego or I) is affected and responds. An example for instance might be that an individual might hear or experience a piece of music and be moved to tears of joy or deep sadness; yet find it difficult to articulate this feeling or mood into words. This aspect that art addresses IMHO seems directly related to the topic of "Mythic verses Conceptual" interpretation. (Do you have particular thoughts concerning Joseph or Jung on any of this that you might like to share?) :idea:
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Post by Andreas » Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:31 pm

Roncooper wrote:Maybe it is just me, but I think it is better to have a thousand meanings than it is to have just one.

This relates to the "Its all relative" argument. For example the Beauty is in the eye of the beholder observation. There are people who think that beauty's ability to take many forms means that beauty doesn't exist somehow. For me it is just the opposite. Its ability to take on many forms and even be personal only makes it more mysterious and powerful, in my eyes.
Yes Ron, but why the flower has a thousand meanings? In my opinion its because meaning doesnt exist outside the human experience. It us who assign meaning, the flower has no meaning. Anyway I think we are opening a different conversation, one that might not fit the subject of this thread. :)
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Post by tonyd » Mon May 02, 2016 11:34 am

Without experience there is no mythical thinking. In the case of the 'flower': a practical example is that when I was diagnosed with a treatable but incurable autoimmune condition many years back, I decided to create a space within which to practice Tai Chi.

Image

The Tai Chi is practically very good for health, the space itself has no more meaning than it provides well-being.

Similarly as we try to frame a consciousness adequate to our time with which we can move into the future we, following Campbell and Jung, have to harmonise with what has gone before and which, for better and worse, constitutes what we are. My original post was merely meant to be a useful reference to those who are sifting through the 'terminal moraine of myth' mentioned by James, trying to uncover useful insights which help us move forward while connecting ever further backward to our forebearers.
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