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

Hi Everyone!

Isn't myth the cause of many of our current problems?

Why would we want to resurrect more of it?

Myth served a purpose when cultures were relatively small. It united the group against other groups. It was necessary. It also didn't have to be true.

Now myths everywhere are breaking down and the different mythologies are clashing with each other; different metaphysical systems are at odds with each other.

The metaphysics of Christianity is very different from that of Islam and Judaism for example.

We should rejoice that myth is breaking down! Maybe then we could bring people up to date on the discoveries that science has made and get rid of all the bad metaphysics.

Until we get most of the worlds population to agree on the same metaphysics and use that metaphysics as a basis for spiritual insight, myth is going to continue to be the source of most of our problems.

Just look at what is happening in the Near East.

Besides mythology is not about truth. It's main function is social and psychological.

That is why we all are in a way forced to respect each others mythology. We don't want to upset each others emotional well being.

The ideal myth would be a myth that was up to date with the science of the times; in other words we would all have to swallow the same reality pill no matter how emotionally upsetting it was.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Ruiz on 2007-02-13 19:49 ]</font>
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bodhibliss
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-13 17:33, Ruiz wrote:

Isn't myth the cause of many of our current problems?

Why would we want to resurrect more of it?
And marriage is the chief cause of divorce - in fact, i don't know anyone who is divorced that hasn't been married first.

So, since marriage leads to divorce, why would we want to encourage divorce by allowing people to marry?

Myth, of course, isn't the problem.

Nor can we do without it. It's the context of life.

As Campbell and Jung have pointed out, even if we were to hit erase, wipe the slate clean, give everyone amnesia, and destroy all books, the same patterns would create new myths echoing the old. They are embedded within us - or rather, we are embedded in myth.

The problem is that many people today read their myths literally (in fact, they often just "read" their myths), rather than living and experiencing the myth.

But to claim myth is the problem is like saying marriage causes divorce - a case could certainly be made, but the obvious solution - eliminate marriage/myth - just doesn't work for me.

Nice to hear your voice again in these conversations, Ruiz!

namaste
bodhibliss


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2007-02-13 19:48 ]</font>
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Post by Evinnra » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-12 19:08, Bodhi_Bliss wrote:
On 2007-02-12 18:19, Evinnra wrote:

Perhaps we could just declare that there is God, he owns the joint hence we all ought to respect everyone elses religion because it all comes from the same source.
He?

<IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif">

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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2007-02-12 19:09 ]</font>
Well spotted Bodhi. LOL. Must admit I'm in awe of masculine qualities but strictly speaking the Transcendental is just as masculine as feminine in my 'feelings'. Should have spell checked this message before posting it.

Correction: Perhaps we could just declare that there is God, S/he owns the joint hence we all ought to respect everyone elses religion because it all comes from the same source. <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif">

Evinnra




'A fish popped out of the water only to be recaptured again. It is as I, a slave to all yet free of everything.'
http://evinnra-evinnra.blogspot.com
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Post by noman » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Holy Cow Nandu! Your thread has grown into a marvelous tapestry. Many wonderful threads within this thread but I’m focused on just one. I wanted to add something to Bodhi’s answer to Dionysus on page five.
Bodhi wrote:
Whatever "new myth" emerges in the future will borrow images from quantum physics, cognitive science, psychology, chaos theory and the science of complexity to construct metaphysical and mythic metaphors - that is what humans have done, from Plato and Aristotle, to Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli, or Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Indeed, we're seeing that more and more, as the metaphors of quantum science seep into and shape western culture.

I suspect, though, it's out of our hands. If genuine mythic archetypes emerging from the collective unconscious don the apparel of scientific metaphors, they will take on a life of their own - but if merely trendy artifice, they'll naturally fade away.
-Bodhi

* * * * * * *

NoMan wrote:
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.
- NoMan

* * * * * * *

Littlewing wrote:
I love identifying deities 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.
-Littlewing

* * * * * * *

SteveC wrote:
The US spends $80 Billion on science but cannot deliver healthcare to everyone. If "myth" is designed to make people more spiritual and practical, then the myth of science has made us blind, not wise.

The fact is that science and religion are equally "myths," though doublethink leads people to believe they are in conflict with one another.

Wisdom is never going to be found in science. The corruption in religion is because of the lack of religion and a misplaced faith in science.
- SteveC
I see three angles on science as myth here:

Bodhi, sees the role science will play in the new mythology - that it will ‘borrow images’ from science. This suggests to me that science isn’t really worthy of mythic status by itself – though it plays a major part in constructing our cosmology.

Littlewing, and I, give science ‘a deific quality’ – allowing science as a full-fledged myth – and as a positive myth.

And SteveC agrees with Littlewing and I that science is mythic - but sees it as a negative myth – an evil deity you might say – and one that we need to stop worshiping.

I understand why science appears to be less than myth. My own short definition of myth is (1) that which we believe in without question and (2) that is vital to our lives. Scientific claims are always subject to debate and thus do not meet my first criteria. But there is much more to science, as a mythology, than simply providing us with the best reasonable description of our universe and our place in it.

Campbell says that the science of 2000 BCE is not the same as the science of 2000 CE. But there really wasn’t any science, as we know it, in 2000 BCE. The word ‘scientist’ didn’t come into the language until the early 19th century.

What was it that broke through, in the Age of Reason? These weren’t a bunch of somber academics lamenting the acceptance of facts that discredit their Christian myths. Just consider the word we use to describe the period: the Enlightenment. This was a time of passionate excitement and anticipation and trying to figure out where it will all lead.

There’s been a momentous mythic shift - from a perspective that looks back in time to one that looks forward. The old mythologies have their golden age and its heroes in the distant past. The new mythology has its golden age and heroes in the distant future. The old mythologies had ancient prophets that lived for hundreds of years and possessed knowledge we would love to have. Our new mythology imagines our descendents living for hundreds of years and possessing knowledge we would love to have. The old mythology envied the classical cultures of Greece and Rome. Now we are more likely to envy future generations. In this way, we look to science and technology to answer all our questions - solve all of our problems.

The best example I can think of comes from an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation. There were some 20th century folks that were found cryogenically frozen just before they died and were brought back to life in the 23’d century. The doctor explained to the captain that people back in the 20th century were terribly afraid of death. And one of the 20th century folks wanted information about the stocks he owned because he thought they would be worth a lot of money. One of the crew explained to him that society had outgrown its need for that economic game.

The new mythology is presented here.The starship and its crew were generally interested in scientific and technical discovery, and in protecting themselves for that purpose. No fear of death. No selfish capitalism. A voyage of discovery. Scientific progress. Battles to be fought to protect the human quest for knowledge. Human ingenuity, through technology, wins every time. And they also have the holi-deck as the ultimate form of recreation to take the place of video games.

It’s all fantasy. But myth has always been a wild exaggeration. That’s why other people’s myths seem so ridiculous.

But our new mythology puts a great emphasis on progress, scientific or otherwise, and a reverence for the future rather than the past. It’s the motivation behind the scientific endeavor that reveals our most potent myth.

The Frankenstein Motif

SteveC makes a point. The typical view, and I think a naïve view of science, is of a dispassionate or ‘mad scientist’ who dislikes people and cares only of his morbid quest for knowledge. A Faustian character. I think that view comes from the fact that new unknown technology is pretty scary and some of the best scientists tend to be somewhat socially challenged.

One such character was Nicola Tesla (1856 – 1943), the Serbian born savant who invented the radio and the induction motor. When he was living in Manhattan he invented a little electric vibrator with a control to change the frequency of the vibration. He tied it to a pillar that was part of the building he lived in and adjusted it until he found the resonant frequency of the building. Others in the building and surrounding area reported feeling an earthquake and the police immediately suspected Tesla and his experiments. Later he told reporters that he could split the earth in two by finding the resonant frequency of the earth.

Needless to say, this is not the typical face of science. Scientists are some of the most conscientious people on earth. They don’t determine how the $80 billion in research money should be spent – most of it being spent on the development of weaponry. Many of our greatest heroes are scientists: Einstein, Salk, Crick and Watson. Science has its parade of saints, champions of the new mythology. And yet, I once saw a bumper sticker that read: SCIENCE KILLS BABIES.

- heavens to murgatroid!

Science is not responsible for the current blindness and lack of wisdom of which SteveC speaks - nor is traditional religion.

- NoMan


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: noman on 2007-02-13 22:48 ]</font>
Ruiz
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Post by Ruiz » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Everybody!

Bodhi-Bliss, it's great crossing paths with you again!

I thought it was common knowledge that marriage was the cause of divorce? <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif">

Bodhi_Bliss said:

"The problem is that many people today read their myths literally (in fact, they often just "read" their myths), rather than living and experiencing the myth."

Thus my claim that myth is the problem. If it was a "few" people that read their myths literally then myth would not be the problem.

I think I know what you are trying to say. Since myth is basic to being human how can one say that it is the cause of our problems? It's like saying that our imagination is the cause of our problems.

But isn't there another truth in the above statements.

Doesn't myth or our imagination sometimes blind us to what is real?

Joseph Campbell mentions in one of his books that mythology is like a marsupial pouch. It provides a safe place in which a child can mature. It is a comfortable place where truth is irrelevant.

Eventually the child grows up and learns to incorporate the reality of the external world. The marsupial pouch is discarded.

The reason I say that myth is the cause of many of our problems is because too many people never graduate from the marsupial pouch (myth). They remain children in a way. Their metaphysics is juvenile.

Is this thread of discussion suggesting that we create another marsupial pouch for all the misborn children that never grew up?

I would suggest that we first help these children adapt to the real world. Learn the science of the day. Grow up!

Then they'll have the potential to experience what many great scientists and poets have experienced when contemplating the wonders of the universe. Only then can a truly wonderful and long lasting myth, shared by many, come into existence because it would be grounded in a common reality; a reality more profound than what many are getting from their childhood mythology.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Ruiz on 2007-02-14 15:33 ]</font>
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Post by Psyche » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Bodhi_Bliss said:

"The problem is that many people today read their myths literally (in fact, they often just "read" their myths), rather than living and experiencing the myth."


To which Ruiz replied:

Thus my claim that myth is the problem. If it was a "few" people that read their myths literally then myth would not be the problem.
Ruiz-
I think that you are on the right track, but your leap of logic from Bodhi's point is huge. They do not necessarily follow.

If Myths are intrinsinct to our being --- they are our deepest stories and journeys and challenges as humans (expressed in as universal terms as possible), then to deny or ignore them would be just as dangerous as interpreting them as literal. Denying myths, and rather expressing them as the problem, doesn't quite take it far enough, I think.

We already live in a world where magic is squashed into a corner; people have no time for myths, they have forgotten their power... until one day, something happens and they require guidance. The myths are ALWAYS there to guide. They do not judge; they don't segregate or choose who is worthy of the mythic lessons and guidance. That is up to the person, their acceptance of myths, their acceptance of guidance that asks for trust, faith, and letting go of total control. People, at least in North America, don't particularly like to relinquish control...over their lives, over others, over knowledge, and especially over their journeys, faiths, spirituality, religion, etc. I think those last ones are pretty much unversal in that people have killed each other over ownership of literal translations. Look how many times in the forums associates have come to cyber-fights over "the right" interpretation. Anyway, I think that its just fear and insecurity talking when one has to grasp tightly to an interpretation. True knowledge and understanding will bring tolerance and an appreciation for other's interpretations of the universals.

So, back to your ascertation that it is Myth that is the problem. I agree with Bodhi on this one that it is not myth directly, but literal interpretations of myth that are detrimental.
I think I know what you are trying to say. Since myth is basic to being human how can one say that it is the cause of our problems? It's like saying that our imagination is the cause of our problems.

But isn't there another truth in the above statements.

Doesn't myth or our imagination sometimes blind us to what is real?

This is an intriguing point. In some ways, I quite agree with you...it is our own imagination (or otherwise perhaps stated: Meaning Making) that is the root of our problems. Our Meaning Making, what we "wish" were true (just as you noted above with 'imagination'), are most certainly a large part of our suffering and problems. It totally blinds us to Truths. TOTALLY! Ego, needs, desires, wishes, hopes, hates, attachments...they all contribute to greater or lesser degrees to forming "our truth and point of view". But they are also problematic in that they can definitely blind us to the real story. How many mis-interpretations and mis-understandings happen each day??

But that doesn't make it the enemy. The enemy here is being unaware of this condition. Imagination is wonderful! And something very, very necessary to mental health.

Psyche.

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

On 2007-02-13 22:39, noman wrote:
Science is not responsible for the current blindness and lack of wisdom of which SteveC speaks - nor is traditional religion.

- NoMan
Well, "science" isn't real, it is a myth, so it can't be responsible. Man is responsible. Of course, how man understands science, and uses it, colors his view and leads him to make mistakes.

Science is the study of cause and effect. It is essentially an observation of the world, and as such is no different than philosophy and religion.

Why is the difference between philosophy and religion? Philosophy is based on the observations made by man. Religion is scriptually based upon the observations made by God. Theology is an attempt to bridge the two. Science acts as sort of an allegedly impartial standard. For example, without science we could not have a miracle. While science attempts to prove or disprove something, it is actually science that makes the spiritual possible. Of course, the spiritual is least easily understood, and is most easily observed, for it is what we also call myth and ritual, love, family and a whole range of emotions.

What can science tell us of our emotions? It can try to regulate them, but then we end up with a Columbine. Drugs can make us stupid and desperate and crazy, and they can also heal us, or put us into a passive slumber of blind obedience.

For me, ideas are my drug. For others, their drug is money, or power, or fame, etc. (I have had those drugs too.)

But "wisdom" is still yet a different standard, isn't it? Wisdom is also based on observing the cause and effect of "others observing cause and effect." Wisdom encompasses religion, science, theology, politics, economics, myth, ritual and so on.

Am I wise?
Are you wise?
Was Socrates wise?

One question leads to another in the chain reaction of "cause and effect." Wealth comes from the pursuit of wealth. Wisdom comes from the pursuit of wisdom.

And yet, we have no control at all of our destiny. We are like animals, and driven by the biological need to survive.

We are the subjects of science not the masters of it. As we try to master it, we subject ourselves to more of its misery. That is what I mean by "science is responsible for our lack of wisdom and blindness." In particular, it is our faith in "marketplace theory" that makes us so miserable, and all of the corresponding rituals that go along with its myth.

We fill out forms with numbers on them everyday. The government is a huge filing cabinet in the sky, mirrored by the absurdity of insurance companies, banks and businesses. Like Neo in The Matrix, we are awash in a world of numbers, and scientists probe the heavens to collect more numbers. There are numbers everywhere, but if you mulitply them by zero you still get zero.

We have nothing more than when we began: each other.
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 Transtar » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-14 01:41, Ruiz wrote:
The reason I say that myth is the cause of many of our problems is because too many people never graduate from the marsupial pouch (myth). They remain children in a way. Their metaphysics is juvenile.
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Ruiz on 2007-02-14 04:21 ]</font>
I feel as though there wouldn't be problems if everybody stayed in the marsupal pouch. The problem isn't the religions teachings, they are all pretty much the same on a base level (see for examples: http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm )but where we get into problems is when people start thinking "their myth is better than your myth" .... so I'm going to take some tiny facet on my myth and extrapolate it so I can justify that your evil and go and kill/convert you. Its not the myths fault that its basic point was overlooked. The problem is that people are NOT looking at the point of myths, they just see them as a status (I belong to this myth, ect.).
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-13 22:39, noman wrote:
Bodhi, sees the role science will play in the new mythology - that it will ‘borrow images’ from science. This suggests to me that science isn’t really worthy of mythic status by itself – though it plays a major part in constructing our cosmology.

Littlewing, and I, give science ‘a deific quality’ – allowing science as a full-fledged myth – and as a positive myth.


Personally i'm with you and Littlewing, Noman - i understand science as metaphor and myth - it's the Story we tell ourselves today about Life, the Universe, and Everything, and it works - just like the Story the Sumero-Akkadian peoples studying the heavens told themselves, which also worked - and just like the story the Yanamamo tell themselves in the rainforest, that works for them. I believe science as a whole comfortably fulfills all four funtions of myth, to varying degrees (though i don't think science is "the coming myth", per se, but will help shape any emerging mythology).

That's farther than Campbell would go - he believes science supports mythology (and vice versa), but recognizes a distinction. Of course, when he distinguishes science from myth, he's talking about the scientific method - the experimental process of trial and error, testing a hypothesis - and the presumption that our knowledge is incomplete and what we think we know today may well be different tomorrow.

In that sense, it's a valid distinction between methods.

However, personally, on a feeling level, i conceive of science as a cult of seekers exploring mysteries of body, mind, and soul that transcend the senses and explain the universe and our place in it. Science has a priesthood that follows prescribed rituals, uses a "secret" language fully understood only by initiates who devote themselves to that discipline, employs arcane symbols (mathematical metaphors) to record the secrets they glean from their devotions, and name and describe their beliefs, breakthroughs, and scientific dogma through metaphor (red dwarfs and black holes in astronomy; the Big Bang, superstrings, and multiple dimensions in cosmology; lock-and-key mechanisms in biology, etc.)

(Just as an aside, both metaphors, the mathematical and the prose, are triggered by the same underlying event – both are inexact descriptions of the same mysterious process, a process at astronomical, cellular and quantum scales often impossible to directly observe or experience in the sensate world)

... and i see Science serving as a metaphor (myth) that conveys a sense of that which is transcendent of experienced reality.

That, however, is my personal context - we'll get a better sense of how well that resonates a thousand years from now, when we've moved on. Will we look back on the science of the 21st century as informed ignorance and quaint superstition that added to human advancement but is incomplete - or is this, where we are now, the pinnacle of knowledge, and the rest is just puzzling out some details?

That's all personal speculation on my part

... but what we do know and can state with certainty is that there is an intimate association between science and metaphor, and metaphor and myth (the first position you accurately observe i maintain above). It's a mutual relationship: in one direction science informs mythic imagery, but conversely, mythic imagery informs science as well.

As Heisenberg points out, physicists don’t sit down and speak to each other in math, but use very imprecise, nonliteral language:
Physicists who deal with the quantum theory are also compelled to use a language taken from ordinary life. We act as if there really were such a thing as an electric current because, if we forbade all physicists to speak of electric current they could no longer express their thoughts.


Dionysus suggests quantum physics might be a different animal - but every field, from biology to astrology to cosmology to medicine, psychology, to meteorology and more are having to take quantum physics into account.

In the past i've noticed many who criticize references to parallels between images from quantum physics and Eastern mythologies, implying this is a comparison foisted on genuine scientists by pseudo-scientific observers, no doubt in an attempt to provide scientific validation for those mystical traditions – and that no true physicist performing the experiments and writing the equations that serve as the foundation of this modern science would contaminate their conclusions with such frivolous, unfounded comparisons.

But the history is just the opposite: images and metaphors from eastern traditions have been associated with quantum theory from its inception. They don’t just come out of left field.

I’ll offer a few of innumerable examples:

"The great scientific contribution in theoretical physics that has come from Japan since the last war may be an indication of a certain relationship between philosophical ideas in the tradition of the Far East and the philosophical substance of quantum theory.”

-- Werner Heisenberg (winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932, and formulated the Uncertainty Principle, sometimes somewhat simplistically rendered as “observation determines what is observed”) … from his Physics and Philosophy, p. 202

“The general notions about human understanding … which are illustrated by discoveries in atomic physics are not in the nature of things wholly unfamiliar, wholly unheard of, or new. Even in our own culture they have a history, and in Buddhist and Hindu thought a more considerable and central place …”

J. Robert Oppenheimer (leader of the Manhattan Project, which split the atom that ended World War II) … from Oppenheimer’s book, Science and the Common Understanding, pp. 8-9.

“For a parallel to the lesson of atomic theory … [we must turn] to those kinds of epistemological problems with which already thinkers like the Buddha and Lao Tzu have been confronted, when trying to harmonize our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence.”

Niels Bohr (credited as the father of quantum theory, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922) … from Bohr’s Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, p. 20


These aren’t mystics seeking validation from physics for their own beliefs, but the people who crunched the numbers, performed the experiments, pioneered the field, and found practical applications (though nuclear weaponry ultimately strikes me as in impractical practical application, as Oppenheimer himself came to believe). They aren’t fuzzy thinkers, but men of science who borrowed images from eastern mythologies because they realized these mystics were doing the same thing they were:

attempting to describe the indescribable.

This is exactly what the metaphorical imagery of myth does:
Mythological, theological, metaphysical analogies, in other words, do not point indirectly to an only partially unknowable term, but directly to a relationship between two terms, the one empirical, the other metaphysical; the latter being, absolutely and forever and from every conceivable human standpoint, unknowable.

-- Joseph Campbell, “Primitive Man as Metaphysician,” Flight of the Wild Gander, p.70


Both bump up against the wall of the unknowable – that which cannot be put in rational terms, but can only be spoken of via metaphor.
The problems of language here are really serious. We wish to speak in some way about the structure of atoms … But we cannot speak about the structure of atoms in ordinary language.

The most difficult problem … concerning the use of the language arises in quantum theory. Here we have at first no simple guide for correlating the mathematical symbols with concepts of ordinary language; and the only thing we know from the start is the fact that our common concepts cannot be applied to the structure of atoms.

Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy, p.177
Campbell points out that the most effective tool for describing that which transcends all human conceptions, that which is "absolutely and forever and from every conceivable human standpoint, unknowable," is the language of paradox – which appears in mythic imagery and metaphysical thought as the oxymoron.

From Campbell’s Creative Mythology, pp. 188, 189-190:
[The oxymoron] is used as a device to point past those spheres of opposites by which all logical thought is limited to a "sphere that is no sphere," beyond "names and forms"; as when in the Upanishads we read of "the Manifest-Hidden, called Moving-in-secret, which is known as Being and Non-being":

"There the eye goes not;
Speech goes not, nor the mind …"


following which Campbell brings up several examples of this polarity from mythology, mysticism, theology and metaphysics, then adds
One cannot help thinking also, in this connection, of the modern finding in the realm of atomic physics of the "principal of indeterminacy, or complementarity," according to which, in the words of Dr. Werner Heisenberg, "the knowledge of the position of a particle is complementary to the knowledge of its velocity or momentum. If we know the one with high accuracy we cannot know the other with high accuracy; still we must know both for determining the behavior of the system. The space-time description of the atomic events is complementary to their deterministic description."

Apparently in every sphere of human search and experience the mystery of the ultimate nature of being breaks into oxymoronic paradox, and the best that can be said of it has to be taken as metaphor – whether as particles and waves, or Apollo and Dionysus, pleasure and pain. Both in science and in poetry the principle of the anagogic metaphor is thus recognized today: it is only from the pulpit and the press that one hears of truths and virtues in fixed terms.


Many scientists believe there is a correlation between the explorations of science and those of the mystical traditions – both explore the nature of reality, but one starts in the external world, the other in the internal world ... and yet they often arrive at surprisingly parallel language and imagery. Heisenberg points out, "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning" ... same as schools of Buddhist or Taoist thought, observing nature exposed to a different method of questioning.

Is it surprising to find scientists and mystics who believe there are parallels?

As one example, in 1937 – well after the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics had been established – Niels Bohr visited China. There he found that the symbology of Taoism – particularly that of the polarity of yin and yang – matched his concept of complementarity, the theory by which he resolves the paradox of how light can be both particle and wave, alluded to above by Heisenberg. He believed he and the Taoists were at least swimming in the same ocean – and, in 1947, when selecting his family coat of arms, Bohr gave a central place to the traditional yin/yang symbol of polarity: the familiar circle divided into a light and dark halves by a serpentine line, with a circle of dark contained in the center of the light half, and a cirle of light contained in the center of the dark half.

Metaphors don’t flow just one way.

Another parallel that comes to mind is the Net of Indra, a mythic image of the universe that stretches back several thousand years - a mythic image which contemporary science has only recently arrived at as well:

John Bell’s breakthrough theorem, which in 1964 posited supraluminal (faster than the speed of light) communication between particles separated in space (later established via the experimentation process in the early seventies), is rooted in his understanding of David Bohm’s "hidden variables" postulate (1952), which also suggests a link between quantum theory and consciousness. Evan H. Walker, following on Bell’s theorem, posits consciousness as "real but non-physical," the source of the mysterious "hidden variables" in quantum mechanics, and that particles themselves might be conscious in "a discrete sense":
Consciousness may be associated with all quantum mechanical processes … since everything that occurs is ultimately the result of one or more quantum mechanical events, the universe is "inhabited" by an almost unlimited number of rather discrete conscious, usually nonthinking entities that are responsible for the detailed workings of the universe.

Evans H. Walker, “The Nature of Consciousness,” Mathematical Biosciences, 7, p.175-176


Brian David Josephson, professor of Physics at Cambridge and winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1973, has published papers paralleling Walker’s theories - all of which arise out of Bell’s work, and which gives rise to Cambridge biochemist Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphogenetic fields (and has been related to Jung’s work on synchronicity with physicist Wolfgang Pauli, another Nobel Prize winner not immune to drawing on images from alchemy to illustrate quantum concepts).

This resonates with mystic disciplines that illustrate the universe as a conscious entity – so it’s no surprise that physicists borrow such metaphors from mystics, and mystics borrow metaphors from physics to illustrate their observations.

Meanwhile, Bohm continued his work, and arrived at the theory of an implicate (hidden) and an explicate (observed) order to the universe, and formed the holographic model of the universe. It’s a model – a metaphor – for the universe, and not the thing itself. But in a hologram the whole is contained in each of its parts

... which brings us back to the Net of Indra, an image which contains an infinite number of jewels – and where each strand of the web intersects there sits a perfect gem, every facet of which reflects every facet of every other jewel in the net

... the whole is contained in each of its parts.

Both are metaphors that can – and are – used interchangeably, by physicist and mystic, to portray a perception of the universe.

Notice the metaphor Erwin Schrodinger (another Nobel prize winner in physics) employs:
To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless. In all the world, there is no kind of framework within which we can find consciousness in the plural; this is simply something we construct because of the spatio-temporal plurality of individuals, but it is a false conception ...

What justifies you in obstinately discovering this difference – the difference between you and someone else – when objectively what is there is the same?

... this life of yours that you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is, in a certain sense the whole; only the whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one simple glance. This ... is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula that is yet really so simple and so clear: Tat tvam asi, that is you.

-- quoted by Joseph Campbell in Thou Art That (a more poetic translation of the same phrase from the Upanishads – tat tvam asi.

Frankly, I don’t employ scientific imagery to validate metaphysical leanings ... but the images of the wave/particle paradox, the holographic universe, and multiple other concepts arising out of contemporary science have helped me understand some of the more difficult, complex metaphysics underlying eastern mythologies, and images from both quantum physics and mythology have helped me make sense of my own inner experiences and my relationship to the external world

... which doesn’t have much to do with quantum physics, but bears directly on how I live my life, and how I engage the world around me.

In that sense the images I draw on from mythology and from what Heisenberg terms "the philosophical substance of quantum physics" are indeed valid in my experience - they work.

But there is yet another reason why we should not discount metaphors drawn from quantum physics: the genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going back in.

Whether one accepts these images or not, they have captured the popular imagination and currently permeate popular culture. For example, Hugh Everett, John Wheeler, and Neil Graham’s Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum theory – in contrast to the Copenhagen Interpretation of Niels Bohr and colleagues – served as the basis of Robert Heinlein’s best-selling The Number of the Beast, as well as several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

... and I wouldn’t be surprised to find elements of quantum theory appearing soon in Dear Abbey columns.

These ideas and images have helped shaped the postmodern perspective that challenges the dominant mythological worldview in the west (and have in turn been shaped by that postmodern perspective), contributing to the "culture wars" spilling over into the American elections. These quantum metaphors may well be playing a role in the formation of a new mythological perspective. This is a dynamic with a momentum all its own, erupting out of the collective unconscious – and whether or not one likes these images, we can’t deny what is happening before our eyes.

And, frankly, it’s a fascinating dynamic to observe.

Are these elements of a new mythology – will these images, whether holograms or Indra’s Net, have staying power? Will individuals and groups make the mistake of reading them literally (likely, as that does seem the pattern)?

Ultimately, the jury is still out – but even if no new mythology emerges, Christianity - the prevailing tradition in the west – in order to stay active and alive, must somehow engage these images, embrace the discoveries of quantum physics – or the popular perception of such discoveries.

It’s an exciting time to be alive – though the last act will play out long after we have left the stage.

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

Like Noman has said; Wow! Has this thread taken off!

Well, I'll not try to answer posts individually - just post a rant of my own. A bit oblique, and a tad off - topic, but I think, relevant just the same.

First, a truly mythic image...

http://www.msgr.ca/msgr-4/dali_corpus_hypercubus.htm

This is "Corpus Hypercubus" Salvador Dali (a man steeped in myth, if there ever was one). Watch the cross Jesus is crucified on. It's not a cross. It's the development of a Tesseract.

And what is a Tesseract? It's a cube in four dimensions - a "hypercube". I'll explain. Take a line. It has only the dimension of length: i.e. it's unidimensional. A square has two dimensions: it's a line squared. If we extend the square in the third dimension, we get the cube. And if we extend the cube in the fourth dimension, we get the Tesseract.

The problem is, limited three-dimensional beings that we are, we can never visualise the tesseract. If we stood a cube on a piece of paper, a mythical two-dimensional being living on that paper would only see the face of the cube resting on the paper: it would see a square. Even if it could imagine that a three dimensional world existed somewhere, the cube would be outside the scope of its visual powers.

Now, take the development of a cube (i.e. imagine a hollow cube made out of paper which you cut open and unfold). It'd make a figure like a cross: four squares attached to the four sides of a square, and one square to form the top which will be attached to one of the outer squares. This "cross" would be visible to our two-dimensional being. But the moment it is folded up again, it'd see only a square!

Suppose we managed to "develop" a tesseract. It'd look like the cross painted by Dali above! (this is an interesting mathematical concept, but I'm a poor explainer and would confuse all of you totally if I went on).

My point is this: we can mathematically represent a tesseract, develop it, show it's projections in the three-dimensional plane, but can never visualise it. Mathematics makes it possible for us to commune with this entity which dwells in a totally different plane of existence.

Myth is metaphor - maybe so is Math?

Nandu.

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Post by tat tvam asi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Steve C, and anyone else following this, you seem to think that science is purely mythic, that it merely refers to beyond itself correct? Is that to say that an observed atom, or electron around about an atom, is a metaphor? Let's try and consider this.

The myth would say something like " serpent chases it's tail around the apple ". A serpent being a wavy drawn image that is going around an apple, or a circle of some type. The hidden reference would be to an electron going around an atom. This is how people are pulling possible scientific root meanings out of our ancient mythical metaphors. There are several books that approach mythology this way. But are you going a bit further and suggesting that the "electron going around the atom" is itself just a reference to something else?

The electron does yield to transcendence, that's a given to anyone following Campbells approach towards science and religion, being that the first source of energy transcends our definition. We observe subatomic particles coming and going. They appear briefly and disappear again. Electrons appear and disappear, and protons and neutrons as well. There are proposed answers to this nowadays however. http://www.quantummatter.com/space_resonance.html

Check this out and see if it helps bring a better clarity. I am trying use these new images and penetrate them to their mystery, as Campbell advised a religion is to do. Accept the science of the day, and penetrate it to it's mystery. I have found that to be good advise.

tat tvam asi/the cosmos

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

Hi Everybody!

Nandu, great thread!

Great points everyone! So many valid points. I wish I could respond to everybody. Please don't take my lack of response as in any way not acknowledging your valid points.

Psyche said:

"If Myths are intrinsinct to our being --- they are our deepest stories and journeys and challenges as humans (expressed in as universal terms as possible), then to deny or ignore them would be just as dangerous as interpreting them as literal."

So true! I agree with you there!

Psych said:

"We already live in a world where magic is squashed into a corner; people have no time for myths, they have forgotten their power... until one day, something happens and they require guidance."

Great point! I couldn't agree more!

Psyche said:

"So, back to your ascertation that it is Myth that is the problem. I agree with Bodhi on this one that it is not myth directly, but literal interpretations of myth that are detrimental."

Psyche, I also agree with Bodhi_Bliss. We really are all together up to this point. (Cheers! <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif">)

Psyche said:

"..it is our own imagination (or otherwise perhaps stated: Meaning Making) that is the root of our problems. Our Meaning Making, what we "wish" were true (just as you noted above with 'imagination'), are most certainly a large part of our suffering and problems. It totally blinds us to Truths. TOTALLY!"

I agree with you on this point too!

It's your phrase from the paragraph above that gets to the heart of the matter:

"what we "wish" were true"

Many of us remember the marsupial pouch our parents provided for us. Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Guardian Angels, Boogey Man etc.
Those imaginary figures had a purpose mythologically.

Joseph Campbell said that without such a marsupial pouch many people come out all twisted and damaged.

But we are supposed to graduate from that marsupial pouch. Revise our mythology or bring it up to date with the external world. The archetypes of myth will still be there but we interpret them in a more sophisticated way as referring to internal thresholds of passage.

Letting go of the marsupial pouch we grew up in is probably our greatest threshold passage. In the Matrix, Neo took the reality pill and couldn't handle it at first. Facing reality is what is going to save us. A Hero that has come to terms with reality is going to spend his/her time improving on that reality. That is where his/her gifts are needed.

When I mentioned science in my posts, I wasn't glorifying science as above all other knowledges. I was using the word science as another way of saying reality; external reality

We all tend to forget that facing reality is at the core of the hero's journey. Why would we want to create another marsupial pouch that the Hero has to overcome?

Transtar, if we all stayed in our own marsupial pouches we'd all be belligerent children fighting over imaginary figures. <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif"> I'd rather take the reality pill.

In the movie "Vanilla Sky" Tom Cruise succeeded in creating a perfect program world where he could get away from reality. (a marsupial pouch) An imperfection in the program brought him back to reality. He eventually decided that he'd rather live in the real world than in his personal fantasy world far removed from reality. I highly recommend the movie as typical of the Hero's Journey.

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

On 2007-02-14 01:41, Ruiz wrote:
The reason I say that myth is the cause of many of our problems is because too many people never graduate from the marsupial pouch (myth). They remain children in a way. Their metaphysics is juvenile.



There is a reason for the marsupial pouch. It isn’t outdated; it serves a purpose. A friend of mine worried about teaching the realities of the dangers her children would/must face as adults in this world. By this, I mean she had a clear understanding of where global warming, loss of biodiversity, exponentially increasing population and ever more devastating weaponry would/must lead. She saw a need for that marsupial pouch; and as a dedicated botanist, was not going to make up a myth about these real problems. So she focused on the biodiversity around her and taught her kids (and so many more kids!) to love it. Yet she found the realm of myth invaluable as teacher of science. The myths of the world are peoples’ explanations of how all this biodiversity came to be. She used a broad spectrum of myth already in existence for her children’s marsupial pouch. Her kids learned of the devastating problems before us all gradually, as we of an older generation did.

I think where religion (and it’s use as a ‘pouch’) gets into trouble is in the same point that Vissi made:
"Look how many times in the forums associates have come to cyber-fights over "the right" interpretation. Anyway, I think that its just fear and insecurity talking when one has to grasp tightly to an interpretation."

Yes, many people will never come out of the pouch because not having a ‘right’ answer is just too unbearable. But hey, there can’t be a Hero with the courage to face the darkness of mystery without the flip image of the cocooned children in the pouch!

lw

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


Thanks so much, Vissi, for the 5,000 year old hug! It became my cyber valentine <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif">


I too agree science is a method and not a dogma, Nandu. Yet I have found it so amusing that the most straight-line lay science student will extrapolate science as the savior of all our species’ problems. Out of this extraordinary belief in the power of a method came the accumulation of radioactive waste we are now burdened. Nuclear power plants were built in the clearheaded conviction that science would solve the waste problem! "Science will fix it" is the first answer most people offer when I ask how we can continue down our current consumptive path.

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

Wow, Bodhi! <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif"> This last message of yours ought to be PUBLISHED for a much wider audience than our thirteen thousand or so JCF associates! There is not a single relevant idea - left untouched by your message - that I could add or even think of being relevant to the closeness of Science, Philosophy, Theology.

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