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

On 2007-02-17 02:23, noman wrote:

Logic wins the chess game. But the logic used is preceded by the irrational emotion that prefers to play the game of chess rather than play cards or watch TV. Rational thought gets us from point A to point B. But it is preceded by an emotion, either desire or fear, to get from point A to point B. Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of passion. (A la David Hume) - NoMan
Exactly, which is why I attack "marketplace theory." It is the choice to play capitalism that is our problem, not the science, myth or religion per se.

Marketplace theory controls our "relationships" with one another. And, using the math of science, it is clear that 2+2 cannot equal 5 without disasterous mathematical, social and environmental consequences. If this wan't clear 6000 years ago, we now have lots of documentary evidence to support God's warning

" 'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest of any kind [a] from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. -Lev 25

We have a problem that I call the Red state, Blue state, Black state. Food growers, Bankers, and oil producers. We need to exchange food for oil and oil for food, but the ideas of the Blue state (banking, profit, taxing, etc) is corrupting everybody's thinking and relationships. Rather than trading evenly we add in profit.

So what do we end up with? War, poverty, pollution, etc. We spend millions to take pictures in space but others go homeless and hungry. Everybody in all three states has been indoctrinated to accept marketplace theory. It is not an American problem or a modern problem. (Every game of Monopoly has a single winner.) But marketplace theory is a myth, and the ideas of Adam Smith and Karl Marx are not in conflict with one another. They simply disagree politically on who is the "good guy" but they both accept the intellectual absurdity of money as "normal" and "real."
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 nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Great little excursion into "science as myth". Now to get this thread back on to the original track...

I keep on coming back to the "Public Dream" definition of myth. Maybe the dream has become too public as religion got organised, and ceased being a dream.

Yesterday, I attended a function in which a young member from ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) gave a talk on the need for people to be "more spiritual". From the tenor of his speech, I could see that he was missing the metaphor throughout. He was very insistent on “worshipping the Lord properly” which, according to him, meant “chanting the name of the Lord every day”. In the end, he made everybody chant “HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE”. The people repeated insipidly. All through the performance, I was remembering the twilight prayers at our temples, when people chant this same mantra: then devotion drips from the words and the whole effect is magical.

When you remove a mantra from its mythical setting and make a slogan out of it, it simply dies.

The young man above was trying to “kill” the myth and “standardise” it: many Hindu fundamentalists regard the variety of interpretations possible in Hinduism as a weakness of the religion- they want to make it “strong”, like Islam and Christianity.

When a mythical hero is presented in a new light, there is usually a big hue and cry. The guy who gave the talk yesterday was implying throughout that there was a “standard” way of understanding and worshipping Krishna. Given the stature of this mythical figure who strides across time and space like a colossus, his assertion seemed laughable.

The same is true with Jesus. Every time somebody makes his own exploration of the myth of Jesus, there is a hue and cry all over the world that the foundations of Christianity are being threatened. This happened even with a potboiler like “The Da Vinci Code”. Some of my liberal Christian friends expressed surprise at the outcry: their contention was, if the teachings of Jesus are the all important thing, what does it matter whether he married Mary Magdalene or not? But the problem is, the figure of Jesus is more important than his teachings: the established Church has somehow frozen that image into a form of their choice. The “public dream” has been made a lifeless tableau.

Every time somebody reinterprets Jesus, the myth is taking wings again, which threatens the establishment. Which is what the heretics did.

I think one way of resurrecting the myth is to absorb the public dream into oneself, and make it your private myth. Come to think of it, poets and artists (and filmmakers) do it all the time. I’ll come back to this point later.

Nandu.


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

Marketplace theory controls our "relationships" with one another. And, using the math of science, it is clear that 2+2 cannot equal 5 without disasterous mathematical, social and environmental consequences. If this wan't clear 6000 years ago, we now have lots of documentary evidence to support God's warning
The Ten Commandments are pretty much nothing more than a hymn to private property and an acquescence to authority to back it up. Thanks Yahweh!!

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

On 2007-02-17 11:29, Dionysus wrote:
Marketplace theory controls our "relationships" with one another. And, using the math of science, it is clear that 2+2 cannot equal 5 without disasterous mathematical, social and environmental consequences. If this wan't clear 6000 years ago, we now have lots of documentary evidence to support God's warning
The Ten Commandments are pretty much nothing more than a hymn to private property and an acquescence to authority to back it up. Thanks Yahweh!!

Peace,
Dionysus
The US Constitution is the hymn to private property, not the Commandments. The Commandments only have to do with personal self-restraint, not political power.

The verse I sited is not part of the Commandments at all, but rather a warning about how to treat one another financially. As such, it is more political than the Commandments.

I know, Nandu, that you don't think this constitutes a conversation about "myth," but I disagree. Patriotism and the American government is the greatest myth alive in the world today, by far. Even people outside of America embrace it.
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 nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-17 20:24, SteveC wrote:
I know, Nandu, that you don't think this constitutes a conversation about "myth," but I disagree. Patriotism and the American government is the greatest myth alive in the world today, by far. Even people outside of America embrace it.
You know very well, Steve, that I use the term "myth" in the sense Joe Campbell used it. The whole point of this conversation is about resurrecting the myth in that sense. Your disenchantment with America and patriotism has been expressed umpteen number of times in many threads. It is not that I consider your views unimportant, I just don't think that they are relevant here.

As the originator of this thread, it is my humble request to all associates to stick to the sense of the original topic. I cannot gag anybody, but I expect that the enlightened community here would pay heed to my request.

Thanks for your forbearance.

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

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

...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.

...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.
I don't know about rejoicing - I have trouble with the increase in societal disruption, violence, and unnatural death that accompany and are aggravated by the breaking up of mythologies. As Joseph Campbell pointed out thirty years ago, this transition, absent the compass a collective mythology provides, will be a painful period of great ferment, chaos, and violence, as solid ground slips out from under the feet of vast multitudes. Eventually, something new will emerge – but the breakdown is not pretty.

And there’s no reason to believe the breakdown of a mythology will mean the end of myth – it’s never worked that way before. Nor are myths something we can be finished with, as if through an act of will.

Myths are the context of our lives, woven into our being, arising out of our own biology (anthropologist Jeremy Narby even finds evidence of archetypal imagery embedded in our DNA) … and we can’t just choose our biology (consciously click off the God gene, metaphorically speaking).

Burn all books, remove all memories of Greek myth, and yet the Oedipal drama will still play out in the infantile psyche - and it’s hardly possible to live an entire life without once feeling the arrow of Eros pierce one’s heart. The names may change, maybe morph into psychological or political motivations, but in our imaginations, and in our daily experience, heroes still slay dragons, and the gods continue to compel our attention.

You can call it love, or you can call it hormones – but the fact that, say, Richard Dawkins might be able to explain certain hormonal and electro-chemical activity that accompanies such a feeling cannot dispel the feeling we feel. We might pay lip service to science as portraying reality, but it does a mighty poor job of that. One can explain at length that love is an intangible altered state of consciousness triggered by biological reactions, but, no matter how accurate that might be on the blackboard or in the test tube, it does not speak to my experience of love – nor does this scientific knowledge protect those who believe it from succumbing to the irrational act of falling in love.
Today, we call the gods "factors," which comes from facere – "to make." The makers stand behind the wings of the world-theater … This is a new problem. All ages before us have believed in gods in some form or other. Only an unparalleled impoverishment of symbolism could enable us to rediscover the gods as psychic factors, that is, as archetypes of the unconscious … All this would be superfluous in an age or culture that possessed symbols.

Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
Forces beyond ego and intention act upon us, whether we call them gods, instincts, archetypes, or universal organizing principles - and they remain active, even more powerful, when unrecognized. We ignore Mars yet sacrifice the youth of our country, the youth of every country, lay them down at the feet of the God of War even as we pooh pooh his power, scoff at anyone who would take seriously this imaginal being – and yet that impulse, that aggressive instinct and pattern of behavior we identify as Mars drives individuals and nations to collide, with spectacular and catastrophic consequences. When Mars was consciously honored, that energy was recognized and, to a certain extent, contained and limited in his image, stopping short of the annihilation and genocide of our rational, enlightened, post-mythic era.

Denying Mars does nothing to stop that in us which gives Mars life ... and it isn't Mars that is the mythos, but the underlying pattern of which he is one expression.

Archetypes are not just psychological constructs, but are very real energies that exert considerable power in the lives of individuals and of nations. At the individual level we feel the influence of archetypes - or, if one chooses, “gods” - in our various complexes and neuroses, relationships, and patterns of behavior. It’s as if these archetypes are driven to live life – to take on flesh, so to speak, and engage the world of external phenomenal reality.

On the level of individual psychology this drive is generally satisfied through us, via complexes constellated within us acting as agents or manifestations of specific archetypes, moving us, for example, to follow in love, or start a family. When we resist or repress those impulses the back flow builds until the dam bursts. The archetype then often “takes possession” (think of Hitchcock’s Psycho as an extreme cinematic example – talk about a “mother complex”).

Archetypes shape and mediate our experience of the external world.

The same is true at the collective level. Myths are expressions of the archetypal dynamics of the collective psyche; these myths often collect around specific historical figures and events (e.g., there really was a Troy, at conflict with various Greek city-states off and on for generations), but it is those mythic patterns that fuel history, and not the other way around. For example, we don’t know if there ever was an Achilles or if he performed the deeds ascribed to him by Homer – but we do know that the frenzied battle rage that possessed him reflects an experience common in battle, reminiscent of the Viking berserkers – and excavations of Troy’s ruins show this spirit animating conflicts between Trojan and Greek.

Those energies that shape cultures and move societies are the same that shape and influence individual lives. Myth allows us a means of engaging – and containing – those energies, rather than remaining helpless and at their mercy – and an active, living mythology provides a framework that allows the culture to partner with these forces, rather than be the victim.
The archetypes or variants of archetypes in myths and rites speak to the unconscious, which no rational admonition or consolation can reach; in the unconscious they encounter something that is related to them at work in its depths, which they awaken and make into an instrument of the regent within us, a guiding image which can gain power over our individuality and adapts its behavior to that of the archetype.

Thus such archetypes, awakened from their slumber within us, become visible images and effect transformations in us; when called forth by kindred archetypes in myth and observance, they rise up within us and become our guides. Our conscious will cannot create such guides … and this archetype summoned from our depths preserves us; it prevents formless forces from tearing our personality apart or driving it to madness under the pressure of the eternal contents of life, of the destiny that oppresses and threatens to crush us.

Heinrich Zimmer, "The Significance of Tantric Yoga," in Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, ed. Joseph Campbell, p. 7
This, you may recall, is the same lecture from which I took the example in an earlier post of the Balinese myth and ritual of Jumbari, which is not perpetuated by scripture or priesthood or organized religious structure, but has a life of its own, self-perpetuating, passed down by children to children in rites conducted by children, ages 5 to 11, with no adults present, involved, monitoring, or able to discuss these activities with the children – and Zimmer discussed at the initiatory archetype this ritual myth activates at length.
A mythological image is one that evokes and directs psychological energy. It is an energy-evoking and –directing sign. A mythology is a system of affect or emotional images; these representations themselves produce this emotion or affect.

Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, p. 86
To me, “resurrecting the myth” does not mean studying myth, nor does it mean constructing a new mythology – in fact, the latter is out of our hands. As Campbell aptly demonstrates in the four volumes of The Masks of God, there is no reason to expect this regularly recurring pattern to stop manifesting itself in history merely because we deny the concept, any more than denying the existence of love (ascribing all to instinct, hormones, and genes) will put a halt to that abstract, irrational experience and its influence in the lives of individuals, and even whole peoples. Some form of mythology will emerge, something of which we only catch an occasional glimmer now and then; I doubt any mythic form will gel in my lifetime, any more than the Christian world view was thought to be the shape of things to come its first few centuries of life.

But in the meantime, “resurrecting the myth” means resurrecting myth in my life. I can’t do it for anyone else, walk another’s path – I can only walk my own. But there are basic experiences I share with everyone, periods of life when I am most clearly exposed to forces that lie in large part outside my conscious control – birth, of course; the often painful physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual evolution from child to adult; sexual initiation; falling in love and marrying; the decline of age (a slope I’m just starting to slide down); and the inevitability and mystery of death. Campbell refers to these as life initiations, common to every human whether Bantu tribesman or Bill Gates – and these initiations are the stuff of myth.

Rather than fighting fate, or resigning ourselves to playing the victim’s role, we can symbolically align ourselves with the archetypal patterns in play, thus moving on a level beyond that of the conscious ego, restoring the harmony between our inner world and the universe that produced us. Ritual provides a sacred place in which to confront these energies, and myth presents archetypal images we can safely engage in that sacred space.

There are many ways to do this, from following traditional paths, participating in sacred ceremonies, to tending to dream. Art also provides a portal into archetypal realms. I’ve offered rituals I perform that make the mythic come alive for me. Others have spoken of the sacred working in their lives – and that, I believe, is how we “resurrect” the myth – through an experience of the sacred. Of course, if one has experienced the sacred there’s no need to explain – and if not, you can hardly “resurrect” something that has never been experienced, anymore than one would suggest to someone who has never been in love that they “resurrect” love.

However, when I see people in love, I feel stirrings in my own life – and when I see people experience the mythic in their lives, I feel a similar resonance in my own. Hence it follows that whatever I do to nurture the workings of myth in my own life will ripple out to other lives as well.

But given the lack of an active, effective mythic tradition that addresses contemporary realities in western culture, what can one do? Campbell advises we discover our own myth in the images that speak to us, drawn from the myths of all time:
There are mythologies that are scattered, broken up, all around us. We stand on what I call the terminal moraine of shattered mythic systems that once structured society. They can be detected all around us. You can select any of these fragments that activate your imagination for your own use. Let it help shape your own relationship to the unconscious system out of which these symbols have come.

Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, p.86-87
That’s how to “resurrect the mythos.” Of course, skeptics and the larger culture are free to resist, repress, and deny the dynamics of myth, but that will not blunt their effect, as noted in the inscription carved above the door to Carl Jung’s home:

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit - "Called or not called, the gods will be present."


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

On 2007-02-17 21:42, nandu wrote:
On 2007-02-17 20:24, SteveC wrote:
I know, Nandu, that you don't think this constitutes a conversation about "myth," but I disagree. Patriotism and the American government is the greatest myth alive in the world today, by far. Even people outside of America embrace it.
You know very well, Steve, that I use the term "myth" in the sense Joe Campbell used it. The whole point of this conversation is about resurrecting the myth in that sense. Your disenchantment with America and patriotism has been expressed umpteen number of times in many threads. It is not that I consider your views unimportant, I just don't think that they are relevant here.

As the originator of this thread, it is my humble request to all associates to stick to the sense of the original topic. I cannot gag anybody, but I expect that the enlightened community here would pay heed to my request.

Thanks for your forbearance.

Nandu.
That's fine, but I guess I would ask the question then of what is "good" myth and "bad" myth before we ressurrect it. Myth, science, politics and religion all seem to share certain characteristics, and are often understood as different or opposites (hence good and bad). Which myth are you referring to?

To bake a cake you need a recipe of ingredients. Just flour by itself won't do.
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 Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Steve, in terms of Campbell's work (and others) there is no 'bad' or 'good' myth. There is myth. Myth reflects the duality of the universe in the language of metaphor.

That's the perspective Nandu has started this thread on.

...and the U.S. government, or any other, is not myth. Neither is patriotism. Those things may be informed by myth.

Have you seen Power of Myth? Campbell has also written a few books on the subject!

Cheers,
Clemsy

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

On 2007-02-18 08:27, Clemsy wrote:
Steve, in terms of Campbell's work (and others) there is no 'bad' or 'good' myth. There is myth. Myth reflects the duality of the universe in the language of metaphor.

That's the perspective Nandu has started this thread on.

Cheers,
Clemsy
I understand that, that's why I put "good" and "bad" in quotes.

My question is more direct. If we need to "resurrect" myth, that implies that somehow it is waning or has died. That certainly doesn't seem to be the case, so I suspect that Nandu is implying that he would like to see a certain type of myth resurrected. (I concur that new myths will replace old myths.) I was simply asking him what myths he wants to resurrect and bring into more prominence. My comments, I think, support his desire since I weaken the prevailing myth, but perhaps he doesn't like my replacement myth any better than the current one.

Regarding the duality of the universe, it leads me to wonder: why are we so afraid* of our own myths? Whether we love them or hate them, they still form the center of our universe. Do we know what it is that we look upon?

(*We are as afraid to live without them as we are to live with criticism of them.)

The Balance - the Moody Blues

After he had journeyed,
And his feet were sore,
And he was tired,
He came upon an orange grove
And he rested
And he lay in the cool,
And while he rested, he took to himself an orange and tasted it,
And it was good.
And he felt the earth to his spine,
And he asked, and he saw the tree above him, and the stars,
And the veins in the leaf,
And the light, and the balance.
And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was.

Just open your eyes,
And realize, the way it's always been.
Just open your mind
And you will find
The way it's always been.
Just open your heart
And that's a start.

And he thought of those he angered,
For he was not a violent man,
And he thought of those he hurt
For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened
For he was not an evil man,
And he understood.
He understood himself.

Upon this he saw that when he was of anger or knew hurt or felt fear,
It was because he was not understanding,
And he learned, compassion.

And with his eye of compassion.
He saw his enemies like unto himself,
And he learned love.
Then, he was answered.

Just open your eyes,
And realize, the way it's always been.
Just open your mind
And you will find
The way it's always been.
Just open your heart
And that's a start.
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 Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

My question is more direct. If we need to "resurrect" myth, that implies that somehow it is waning or has died. That certainly doesn't seem to be the case,
To you maybe. Others here are of a different mind, as many topics, old and new, and posts in this thread assert.
so I suspect that Nandu is implying that he would like to see a certain type of myth resurrected.
Maybe. Wouldn't we all, once considered?

I, for one, would like to see one that doesn't require everyone else to see the same thing.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

*SIGH*

Leave it, Steve. Post what you like. Keep on talking about your pet subjects all you want. Just pardon me if I don't respond.

If you are not able to understand what I mean by myth after all these conversations, maybe we should call it a day.

I'll be here, talking about these subjects in my own idiosyncratic way. I guess there are some associates here who are on my wavelength, and who would enjoy conversing with me.

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

I do enjoy you Nandu, it would seem that my questions/myths annoy you however.

please continue, I will be silent.
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 nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

You don't annoy me, Steve. But when we are persistently missing each other's meaning, there is no use continuing the conversation.

Just go through the last part of Bodhi's post above, to understand what Joe Campbell, and many of the associates here, mean by myth. This is the spirit of the myth that we are trying to resurrect.

If you have a difference of opinion on what constitutes myth, I suggest you start another thread. Then we can all contribute there, and have another live discussion!

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

I must question whether we should be saying myth is dormant.

The 325 million people who have purchased a copy of a Harry Potter book are attuned to myth. The attunement is so strong, that when the publication date of the final book in the series was announced, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" became a number one bestseller on amazon.com via pre-orders.

Myth is the rich soil in which we grow, the foundation of our homes, the mother of our food, and the air we breathe. While today's students may not be conversant in the Greek and Roman canon, but they haven't lost touch with the archetypes behind the curtain.

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

Malcolm,

I agree with you that the archetypes remain beneath the surface. The problem is that, they are so much beneath the surface that we don't recognise them any more.

We can't live without myth: yet we persistently deny its existence. It has to find a way out! Art, literature and movies are the healthy outlets (like Harry Potter). We have some not so healthy ones: see where the myth of the Israelites and the Muslims have taken them.

Here's one critique of the Harry Potter books where a lady tries valiantly to take the myth out of her children's lives.

http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc ... ecnum=3814

But the article is instructive: it shows however much you try, the artist succeeds in infusing myth into the world. As Campbell observed, he is the modern shaman.

Christianity has been instrumental in producing many of the truly magical mythical art in the world. Within the tight framework of the faith (which doesn't allow for much freedom of expression), there has been explorations which could only be termed fantastic.

Image

Image

Hieronymus Bosch's demons of hell are really something out of a nightmare: did he have visions, I wonder?

Nandu.

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