Thomas's Rant

Story, myth, writings

Why Study Mythology? (3)

with 2 comments

I must admit that I didn’t mean to make these ‘Why Study Mythology?’ posts into a series but it seems this has happened as I have examined and re-examined a number of major interpretations. Whereas the 1st entry concerns a very general brainstorming, and the 2nd is modelled on the psychological theories of Jung and Joseph Campbell, this 3rd version is modelled on Jean-Paul Sartre’s phenomenology. It is, I think, more accurate but perhaps less clearer than the 2nd version.

Mythology is an imaginary construct discovered and created to provide a prism through which one views reality in a fulfilling and healthy way. The content of myth is imaginary and fantastic but the purpose is to effect an attitude rather than convey knowledge – factual or moral. This attitude amounts to an experience that can be likened to a flexible awareness of the possible structures and reaction patterns of humanity rather like knowing someone’s personality in that it gives one access to a general idea of behaviour with which one can relate and prosper.

This purpose is perverted in either of 2 ways:
(1) when the fantastic unreal quality of myth is taken as real and factual, the result is wrong history or narrow morality, (this is known as idolatry)
(2) when the elements of the myth are discontinuous with or alien to the present culture such that it is meaningless or nonsensical, the result is either rejection or, at best, a benign entertainment maintained for no true mythic reason (this is known as entertaining ‘false gods’). The myth fails to effect the appropriate attitude and remains out of synch with perceived reality.

It is probably only in very recent times that it has been necessary to recognize metaphoric and culture-specific expressions of myth. These two strains always appear together but in the past one could function without recognition of their separateness as humans existed mostly within defined cultural boundaries. This is no longer tenable in a global society and is highly destructive.

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Written by tomtomrant

3 January 2013 at 10:50 pm

Posted in myth

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Stop intellectualising mythology, dear. It can’t be proselytised.

    liegewaffler

    14 January 2013 at 9:53 am

    • I am neither “intellectualizing” or “proselytizing” but simply exploring the way myth works. The alternative is to consider it all as fantasy or lies.

      tomtomrant

      14 January 2013 at 12:38 pm


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