Belief and myth

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

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BobbyEshleman
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Belief and myth

Post by BobbyEshleman » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:10 am

I'm sorry for a perhaps cliche title, my hope was to succinctly describe why I'm here, why I'm interested in JC, and what I have long been feeling to be my calling to realize a purposeful dedication in life. A feeling, I think, many others have inside of them too.

I just began reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and I've seen most of the power of myth interviews so I am not even close to being at a familiar level with JC's work. My first question is, does belief play a role in mythology's function? Must a person believe a myth in order to open up to the possibilities of life that the myth presents? This is my first question, and I'm sure I will see it later in my reading of his work.

Thanks!

Bobby

(edit: changed title to fit subject)
Last edited by BobbyEshleman on Sat Aug 25, 2012 4:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Neoplato » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:55 am

My first question is, does belief play a role in mythology's function? Must a person believe a myth in order to open up to the possibilities of life that the myth presents? – Bobby
Hello Bobby and welcome. :D

From my experience, it isn’t so much “belief” as coming to an understanding of the message being conveyed, using poetic and symbolic language, in a form of a metaphor.
Myths (and religions) are analogies that try to teach us how to be human.

Campbell always talked about the four functions of myths. IMHO, these functions are intended to promote a stable human psyche in a world of chaos. Here’s my summary based on “Myths to Live By” (214-215).

1. The mystical function to live and participate in the mystery of Being.
2. Provide an image of the universe in accordance with the knowledge of the time period.
3. Promote social norms.
4. Provide harmony of spirit throughout one’s life.

No “belief” required per se.

However, IMHO, the possibilities of life is a relation of "who you are" to how we experience the universe as reality.
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Post by Cindy B. » Sat Aug 25, 2012 11:03 am

Hello, Bobby, and welcome!

And in line with what Neoplato said, consider that the power of mythology and its symbols is rooted in our shared collective unconscious and archetypes (Jung here), and that the phenomenon of belief is a conscious function that entails in some degree the concretization (literalization) of symbols that saps them of their power, so to speak.

Hope that made sense...

Cindy :)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by BobbyEshleman » Sat Aug 25, 2012 4:01 pm

Thanks for replies! Both answers make a whole lot of sense. So the power of myth is not derived from belief but is derived from understanding the myth itself. So, in a way, this is to say that myth arising from the unconscious is intrinsic to the human psyche and therefore the functions of myth don't depend on conscious belief.

Why does the literalization of myths ruin the power of the myth?
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Post by Neoplato » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:05 pm

Why does the literalization of myths ruin the power of the myth? –Bobby
That’s a great question. :D

For me, when myths are solidified in dogma and becomes an institution, the purpose of the story is lost. Then it becomes a means of control with a set of rules that must be adhered to…or else.

It’s like “You must do as we tell you to do. We will interpret the stories for you and tell you what they mean.”; instead of discovering the meaning for yourself and coming to your own understanding.

So we have external doctrine vs. internal predisposition.
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Post by Cindy B. » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:20 pm

Bobby wrote:Thanks for replies! Both answers make a whole lot of sense. So the power of myth is not derived from belief but is derived from understanding the myth itself. So, in a way, this is to say that myth arising from the unconscious is intrinsic to the human psyche and therefore the functions of myth don't depend on conscious belief.
Hey again, Bobby.

Indeed, you got it for the most part. :) I just want to clarify, however, that the sociological function of myth does make use of belief, a pointed one, and in the sense that various collective attitudes and moral or ethical codes derived from mythic themes, e.g., Christian mythology/religion, provide and/or influence social structure and cultural identity within which a given group of peoples lives and functions.

Why does the literalization of myths ruin the power of the myth?
This is discussed frequently on the board, and you'll find tons of talk about this when you look around, but this is the conversation that first came to my mind since I happened to have a part in it. Please take a look when you have time, and share your thoughts if you'd like: Re: Campbell's Lecture, The Vitality of Myth

No doubt others will be along soon who'll want to share their ideas about this one, too. It's a major bee in the bonnet at times. :wink: (Edit: Oops, Neoplato, didn't know that you'd already been here while I was creating my own post. Just noticed.) And I expect that Clemsy will check in soon and no doubt have better information to share from the Campbellian perspective. My background just happens to be rooted in Jungian ideas.


Cindy
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by Neoplato » Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:46 pm

@Cindy,

Sometimes we get so wrapped around the axel here, we forget the basic questions.

@Bobby,

Thanks for the refreshing inquiry,
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Post by jufa » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:00 pm

What I have come to understand belief is as an elevator which operates individually in people according to curiosity, or lack, of taking the elevator up or down [standing still is not an option].

The downward ride is slothfulness. This to myself means ones lack of responsibility to themselves to question that which they already consciously know.

The upward thrust is to question what is known, but not settle for the collective mind set of conformity.

Beliefs is the beginning stage for advancement. Understanding beliefs are relative only in commonality, is the next stage of advancement. Curiosity to to take what one has learned, digest and nurture for growth of understanding is the next step of advancement. Once understanding is comprehended, the move forward, beyond that comprehended, is the next advancing step upward to awaken curiosity even the more. There is no end to the stair steps going down nor up.

IMHO!
Never give power to anything a person believe is their source of strength - jufa
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Post by Cindy B. » Sat Aug 25, 2012 9:04 pm

:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by BobbyEshleman » Sun Aug 26, 2012 12:43 am

thanks all for their contributions. I'll post back after I've read through that earlier forum thread! Meanwhile, I do have another question that I don't think I will find in JC's published work that I am going to start a new thread about.
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Post by Clemsy » Sun Aug 26, 2012 3:08 pm

Welcome, BobbyEshleman!

A brief contribution...
My first question is, does belief play a role in mythology's function? Must a person believe a myth in order to open up to the possibilities of life that the myth presents? – Bobby
It can. The overall purpose of myth is to put one in accord with living, as Campbell called it, "in the field of time." So whether or not one believes the myth literally or not doesn't matter in the long run if this accord has been attained.

Literalism gets sketchy when its adherents demand everyone else come along for the ride. Especially when "or else" is part of the demand. :P

Cheers,
Clemsy
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Good topic !!

Post by maik » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:00 am

Hi .. Good topicto read thanks guy's
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Post by CarmelaBear » Thu Feb 05, 2015 9:59 am

Hi, maik. Welcome to the Conversations.

When Campbell defined myth in a new way, as a metaphor for ideas and images that go beyond concrete, immediate experience, he freed us from the conflict posed by a knowledge of science that challenges a compelling quest for understanding of abstract and transcendent matters that precede and guide our path toward new observations of experience. Our speculations, our imaginings and our artistic creations usually presage original forms of math and empirical data mining.

I agree that this is a good topic. It is food for thought.

~
Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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