Resurrect the Myth

What needs do mythology and religion serve in today's world and in ancient times? Here we discuss the relationship between mythology, religion and science from mythological, religious and philosophical viewpoints.

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nandu
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Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-06 23:07, SteveC wrote:
I suspect that the world "myth" is being used in two different ways. One as "falsehood" and the other with ritual, sacrificial and spiritual connotations. In both cases, it involves "self" and "other," which is why the issues of true and falsehood are related.
"Myth" is generally used to mean "falsehood" by the layman. This connotation has become attached to the word through usage; however, I suspect any of the associates here who are familiar with Campbell's writing will use it in that sense. I certainly did not.

More than identification of Self and the Other, myth is the doorway to the investigation of the Self: what the thing called reality (of which we are a part and the whole at the same time: the reality exists in us and we exist in reality) really is . I believe we come to this realisation through transcending. But this is not a sudden affair, this transcendence. Myth and ritual pave the way.

Each of us have our private myth: this much I agree. But modern life and religious dogmas have removed the focus from transcendence to blind faith, thus killing the myth.

Nandu.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Campbell identified myth as that which ties us together. The archetypes from which myth arise are the same in all of us, but we've clothed them differently throughout our history with the needs and challenges of the local environment. It is this clothing, these masks, which have been used to seperate us and them.

Also, as environment changed, or control over it improved, the trappings of myth, here and there, grew obsolete. These have become sources of tension, as some grasp with growing desperation onto that which others would slough off like old skin.

But the impulse, from deep down in our humanity remains the same. How this is to express itself is the theme of this thread, no?

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Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-07 04:46, Clemsy wrote:
Also, as environment changed, or control over it improved, the trappings of myth, here and there, grew obsolete. These have become sources of tension, as some grasp with growing desperation onto that which others would slough off like old skin.
You've expressed it beautifully, Clemsy. The trappings of myth are now being identified as myth nowadays.

For example, the story of Jesus Christ ascending the Cross is not myth: it's just a clothing for the myth. The actual myth is the Passion of Christ, which one has to experience through one's body: the crown of thorns, the excruciating and exquisite pain as each nail bores into the flesh. Madness is a distinct possibility in a devotee who actually experiences the agony and ecstasy of Jesus: as Steve noted in the quote about Maya Deren, one walks a very tight line between enlightenment and insanity.

I may not be able to experience this myth because of my mythical orientation, but then I have my myths. The idyllic moonlit nights of Vrindavana, where the strains of a cowherd's flute waft slowly across the landscape... a dark youth and a fair maiden cavort shamelessly on the banks of the Yamuna river... enjoying their totally adulterous love...

My point is, whatever the myth, what is important is the way you experience it. It is this experience that I am trying to recapture.

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Post by SteveC » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I think you are missing the nature of "the divided self" in the swirling cauldron. Religion cannot "strip away" that which does not exist, nor can "religion" exist except as a intellectual concept because it is ony individuals that exist.

We are our ideas, which is why understanding myths (our own and those of others) is critical to understanding ourselves. This is what I was trying to explain in the Big History thread. The individual is at the center (real flesh and blood) and ideas swirl all around him/her.

If one looks east they see a sunrise. If they look west they see a sunset. While these seem to be opposite events they are actually the same event, it is only our perspective that shapes what we see. We experience both and know both intimately, but how we understand them evolves. Whereas the sun and earth simply continue as they always have, unconcerned with our presence.

We create our own urgency and know our own thirst, but we know as well that we are all common. We have the same body parts and same frailties. We are spiritually one, and the conflicts that arise are from a lack of spiritual awareness of self.

If the heroes journey is to go into the depths of the forest and then find ones way out, then it is a mirror that marks the center of the forest.
You can only see the height of a mountain from its valley.


The radical myth towards which the helix aspires is beyond the desire for money or power, yet which has greater returns than all the power and money in the world could not achieve.
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Post by noman » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

…both the literalists and atheists view religion through the same glass. The literalist says: all this really happened. The atheist says: No, it's against the laws of science, so it can never have happened. Both are ignoring the twilight land of myth, where "Real" and "Unreal" have no meaning.
-Nandu

* * * * * * *

That’s and interesting way of looking at it.

1.) Literalists – myth/ritual as real, as true fact
2.) Atheists – myth/ritual as unreal, as false lie
3.) Mystics – myth/ritual as both real and unreal, a truth that transcends the true-fact/false-lie dichotomy.

I see both literalists and mystics as spiritual in their own way; atheists as in denial of their humanity.
- NoMan

* * * * * * *

In 1999 sociologist Peter L. Berger edited a book titled The Desecularization of the World In it he claims that, with the exception of Europe, we are becoming less secularized – more religious; and that religion is playing a greater role in our professed secular governments.
- NoMan

* * * * * * *

Which is precisely the problem. Christians and Moslems subconsciously realize that their myths are dead, thus we see politics (and power) replacing the true teaching of their saviors. In the West (and especially in the U.S.A.) we are witnessing the rise of Christian fascism and in the Mid-East the Moslems too realize that their faith is being threatened by science and the consumerist adulation of the West and thus we have the mess we find ourselves in. (This is probably an over-simplification) Both of these "outward-facing" religions are in crisis and we are all paying for their death throes.
- Dionysis
Our problems are serious but, I think, not all that new.

In Cordoba, Spain, in the twelfth century, a man by the name of ABU’L WALID MUHAMMAD IBN RUSHD AL-QURTUBI was writing on various subjects. We would come to know him as the philosopher Averroes (1126-1198). His influence on the scholastics of Europe, during the high Middle Ages, including one Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), was enormous. He was cited so often; they referred to him simply as ‘The Commentator.’ It was through Averroes work that the door was opened by the scholastics to the Renaissance and eventually to the Age of Reason.


In his 2005 book,Ideas Peter Watson summarizes Averroes legacy as follows:
P279 Averroes’ writings did three things:

1.) Reconcile the thought of the Greeks, Aristotle and Plato, with the Quran.
2.) Reconcile the role of reason and revelation
3.) Showed how various segments of the populace, according to their intellect and education, could relate to these ideas.

In his devotion to reason, his most important argument was that not all the words of the Quran should be taken literally. When the literal meaning of the text appears to contradict the rational truths of philosophers, he said, those verses are to be understood metaphorically.

He advocated that there are three levels of humanity.

Khass - the elite – utilize philosophy
Amm - the general public - literal meaning was sufficient
Kalam - for minds in an intermediate position - dialectical reasoning could be used

Averroes’ method was as important as his arguments. He introduced a measure of doubt, which was never very popular in Islam but proved fruitful in Christianity.

- Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention from Fire to Freud, Peter Watson, (2005)
In Averroes’ time there probably wasn’t such a concept as a-theism. So when I read of his tripartite description of society it struck me as similar to the scheme Nandu and I had discussed.

We would all like the world to be simpler – convert all the literalists. But keep in mind; they would like to have us all converted as well. I think there’s still enough room on this planet for all three levels, tolerance being more important than proselytizing. But - for those in the intermediate position, discussing Campbell and Jung could work wonders.

-NoMan
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Post by Dionysus » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

"A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts." - Lao-Tzu

Steve, Which chapter is that from? There are so many translation of the Tao te Ching, I don't recognize it.

"Conflict does not sprout out of the Earth spontaneously; we create it."

Life feeds on life. What do you mean that conflict does not arise spontaneously? Are we to erect a template demonstrating how things ought to be and then judge the majesty, or can we simply accept the creation as it is?

--Bruce.


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Post by Dionysus » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-01-31 04:48, Clemsy wrote:
There’s nothing inherently wrong with literalism.
Except when it builds walls and creates 'others'. Literalism allows for the 'my god is not only better than your god... your god doesn't exist' syndrome.

I agree. Literalism is tribalism. And tribalism is exclusivism.

--Bruce
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Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-07 17:04, noman wrote:
We would all like the world to be simpler – convert all the literalists. But keep in mind; they would like to have us all converted as well. I think there’s still enough room on this planet for all three levels, tolerance being more important than proselytizing. But - for those in the intermediate position, discussing Campbell and Jung could work wonders.
I couldn't agree more.

But I don't want to "convert" all the literalists - far from it. Even the most literal of the literalists enjoys myth as metaphor: the devout Christian and Muslim also "experience" God. The only point of disagreement is about the "truth" or "falsehood" of your worldview.

On the other hand, it is sad how the experiential religions have also lost the myth. Our local shamans (Velichappadu) dance, imitating possession by the Goddess: but it is sadly evident that no deity possesses them, they are just doing it for a living.

Nandu.
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Post by Benyboy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

myth in the west is dead
Nay! For unto this day, Wonder Boy is born!

...beginning as an idea that comes to us more like a curiosity than an actual posibilty; turning unto something that can only be felt; and finally evolving into a state of being or a realm of practicalities, or a preeminent force that opens for us worlds beyond YOUr wildest fantasies.

When explaining myth(ology), myth(makers) have two(3) options. One is to speak in metaphorical terms and talk about a world of
Magical dimensions.
The other is to explain thier business in abstact terms proper to myth(ology).

Neither option will ever satisfy the rational mind of Western Man.
...ie. Netherworld
The warrior's approach is to say "yes" to life: "yea" to it all.
....Joseph Campbell
There is a profound distinction between the myth(makers) of antiquity and those modern times. The (makers) of antiquity with abilities had been able to build the structures of (making) emphasizing absolutness and practicality.The concrete World of reality as it is. ie. Earthworld.

Ais of modern times (nay to death)
(renowned for thier sound minds) have the capacity ro rectify the coure of (making) if
Ais dream it necessary. ie. all the possibiities of OTHERWORLD
Earthworld
Otherworld
Netherworld

These are the realms of our existence
These are the worlds that bind us
Flesh is tied to Earthworld
Spirit to Otherworld
Death to Netherworld
Between the three, only the Ais travel
without restriction.

Etruscan proverb, Second Century, B.C.E.
Wonder Boy

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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I like the tenor and flavor of your last post, BenyBoy. It will take me a while to fully grok what you're saying, but that's megacool - it's not just the linear thought, but what's embedded in the rhythm and choice of words that reaches out to me.

I could be wrong (and often am), but what i catch from your remarks is a sense that, given that a rational understanding of myth is beyond the grasp of the fundamental Western mindset, you're suggesting it's not even worth trying to explain in rational terms

... so it follows that maybe the best way to address the subject is through an "irrational" approach.

Indeed, seems the more we discuss myth, the more life drains out of it - we turn mytholgy into theology.

Nandu suggests a return to ritual - and i believe he has a point ... but maybe also, to resurrect the mythos, we did a restoration of the primacy of Image?

... or not ...

bodhi
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Post by Benyboy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

...as the chicken said to the egg, next time you go first...

It is a mistake to look at the abouve situation as only metaphorical.


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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Dionysus/Bruce wrote:
I agree. Literalism is tribalism. And tribalism is exclusivism.
Bruce, belated welcome to these conversations. I appreciated your thoughtful comments in the War of Art thread. For me, tribalism can be a good thing, if the tribe includes everyone, everywhere. Literalism, to me, tells us how much of ourselves we are willingly bringing to life. To extend Joseph Campbell's point on mistaken readings of myth as tied to prose rather than poetry, I'd attribute to prose the distance created in considering someone else's experience that we may apply to our own lives while poetry's nature requires us to bring our own life to the experience.

Nandu, great conversation! To paraphrase the American writer, Mark Twain, I feel the reports of myth's death have been greatly exaggerated. As others have already eloquently stated, I don't think myth can die. We may lose our close association with it, forget to honor its power in motivating us to create, or simply fail in claiming the eternal aspect of our own lives. But myth lives and we respond to it.

In considering Campbell's assessment that myth is dead and his prediction of a new mythology rising, I've wondered if a period of seeming mythological dormancy is necessary in order for something truly new to be birthed. In the past, wisdom traditions have grown from the foundations of other or older traditions and this has led, at least in my opinion, to perhaps part of the difficulty in reconciling the paradoxes inherent to some of those spiritual systems.

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Post by Dionysus » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Vissi, Thanks for the welcome. I enjoy reading your posts, too.
For me, tribalism can be a good thing, if the tribe includes everyone, everywhere.
I like that, Vissi, but many tribes are more exclusionary than your definition allows for. I guess "our" tribe is homo sapiens sapiens.

Bruce.
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Post by littlewing » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Nice discussion! This quote on page one by NoMan caught my fancy:

"But I understand what you mean by Myth being dead in the West. It is dead for secularists. But for those of us who know better a new mythology is emerging; a mythology that has as its deities: equality, beauty, charity, progress, scientific truth, and environmental harmony. I don’t see this new mythology as dead or dormant at all but showing itself in museums, movies, and in the $80 billion the U.S. spends on science each year."


I love identifying dieties as qualities people become passionate about. Many a science-leaning friend has given science a deific quality (always exclaiming they certainly are not!); and as an environmentalist, I feel the same about environmental harmony.

However, I suspect that Campbell's observance of myth lacking in the west has less to do with secular versus religious/mystic and more to do with losing culture. Europeans lost much culture acclimatizing to being "american"; indigenous peoples have lost much culture being conquered. Capitalism as a societal system leans toward a more Randian view and is hard on cultural identity.

Feeling at home in a particular religion helps form culture. And of course, having an intact extended family... one that shares a moral code and history of stories... is an intact culture. Those who have left religion behind and no longer have that cohesive family don't have to be such a lonely lot, however. We (and most all in the US to some extent) need to carve out a culture. We are only limited by our imagination. The moral code we teach our children; the beautiful spiritual mix that comes from understanding the value of everyone's religion (and the pitfalls of literalism) are the cultural guides. How we express our passion for life; food and music, i.e., are very important aspects of having culture. Every holiday that needs tweaked to make sense to our children helps carve out a new culture. The stories, whether Jesus or Ninja Turtle based are hero stories; and help lead the way. Even the American Christian ends up trying to tweak away from the commercialism = toy greed aspect of our holidays.

Perhaps the best we can do for our society is help create one. We are given the unique task to explore and carve out a real culture for our children and our own lives, one not totally bogged down in the race for legal tender.

lw

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Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

A truly well-expressed post, littlewing!

Nandu.
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