MYTH IN THEORY: MYTHOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY (Part 3)
Right off the bat, if you’re scratching your head why I didn’t group sociology with anthropology from the previous part, it kind of feels better this way, at least philosophically, so just bear with me.
I’ve already touched on the role of mythology as a cultural emblem, a body of stories reflecting the nature and order of the culture it originates from, plus its patterns and essence it reflects. As such, the sociological paradigm to the study of mythology may be on one hand the most paramount and yet on the other hand (due to its palpability) not quite too prevalent.
To elaborate on this statement, firstly: sociology and mythology share a powerful trait in their subject matter, since sociology critically analyzes the occurrences that make up any (and all) given culture(s), while mythology (sub)consciously elucidates the very same occurrences through its storytelling. In such a way the sociological reality of today’s groupings, subcultures and governing organisms is paralleled to the tradition expressed in myths … whether or not they are true is another matter, because “factuality” becomes heavily scrutinized by and personalized to the “party” one belongs to. In such a way, strictly speaking it does not really matter if the ancient kings embellished their origins and created a divine backbone to their governing, because perception becomes reality and Truth can be quickly hidden by the patrons, agendas and personal quirks and misunderstandings of the researcher. The same thing is happening today in the “forceful” liberal state we seem to be living, where equality for equality’s sake is akin to perpetual war bringing proverbial peace. Paradoxes and hypocrisies galore!
And secondly, however, the less obvious connection between the theories of sociology and mythology stems from the critique of mythology as a collection of mere fantastic stories, while sociology deals with relations within the human cultural organization. What is palpable in this pairing is the power myth has in relating, controlling and divulging the relations that sociology follows. Thus, the great Indian epic Mahabharata directly reflects the nature of the Indian culture, the guiding dharma principle and its caste system, while the story is bracketed by the great supernatural battle between good and evil (and it’s never preferable to take stories too literal, regardless of their sacrality). On the other hand, great influencing myths of Mesopotamia among other things serve as social, order-inducing exemplars, which can in turn be understood either ideologically as propaganda or as an explanation of rituals as cultural elements. Consequently, mythology can function as a powerful ideological apparatus, particularly when mythic stories take on more sacred roles through the implement of religion, such as the dogmatic ruling of the Church in the Middle Ages for example which culminated in the Crusades and the totalitarianism of the Western religious system, consequently furthering the divergence between faith as such and institutional religion as the barbarous offspring … something Nietzsche would surely nod to.
(The subject of the Crusades is along with The Second World War generally considered primarily negatively, reflecting on the dark depths of humanity, with destruction by far prevailing any righteous consequences. While mythic and especially disillusioned religious parallels can easily be found in both cases, I want to stress the interconnection of events which resulted from them. While pacifism may be the “positive” global outcome of the Great War, the Crusades were principal in acquainting the Western world with the ingenuity, scientific and artistic prowess of the then Islamic tradition that notably influences consequent Western development. Eternal duality at is clearly always at work.)
What sociology and mythology share the most is their position in relation to the individual and the larger human sphere. Both reflect the greater macrocosmic reality that every microcosm each and every one of us is finds himself or herself in and has to cope with one way or another. Whether the organization reflects the story or the other way around is difficult to answer; while culture would already had to have been prominent for the bard to compose myths about it, myth touches upon higher realities than human culture and organization, as Jungian archetypal system also points to. To an extent, this matter is quite arbitrary; the issue of where society historically ranks in connection to religion can easily resemble the eternal question of what came first: the chicken or the egg. The more important concern for my research is the interaction of both subject matters and the dualism of the personal and the social paradigm, which reflects the position of every (human) being that balances its existence between its own being, its own I, and the greater environment it finds itself in …to again extend the initial duality into a tripart structure.
(Strictly speaking, the dual principle of the micro and macrocosmos can be in this sense expended to a triad, where society as the mesocosmos, the central area occupies the space between the human – the personal –and nature – universal sphere. The mesocosmos can essentially be interchangeable with the macrocosmos, since they both reflect a reality bigger form the individuum. Similar observation can be made in the human/family/society triad, where the family unit essentially occupies the social sphere.)
From a theoretical position, the concept of the monomyth finds merit within this framework, where similar cross-cultural, elemental themes get reenvisioned through particular expressions of local environments. In other words, the mythic questions spans from the universal to the social position, from the overreaching reality or the Truth to the specific truths of each and every society, from the sacred to the profane, from Brahman to Atman. In each case, the individual functioned either directly or indirectly within the (human) social sphere or the larger (universal) existence as such. Max Weber’s social forces and structures have clearly always been at work.
For reasons of extreme prejudice, the author of this blog wishes to remain anonymous …