MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
MYTH AS COMMUNICATION
I have touched on the storytelling aspect of mythology on numerous occasions, but the point to be made in this content is that the lessons and teachings of myth serve as tools of communication in the widest sense imaginable. Taking Levi-Strauss’ approach for example, mythology serves as a language through which the modern reader can gaze into the tradition of the past and partake of the ancient wisdom. The structural study of myth theorizes how mythic elements in themselves have no real meaning. Their significance comes through their relation with each other. Thus, the objective is to find the real meaning of myth, even through the elaborate incorporation of differences in various stories. There are obviously some caveats to be considered; namely, if we have a binary nature of raw forms that takes significance only in their application and use, we can say that myth is both powerless and all-powerful as the same time. This very de Saussurian reading can be wonderfully applicable to anything and everything imaginable, but myth as the storytelling and communicating tool thus becomes both the proto-langue and the proto-parole of sorts.
This formalistic ideal (or theoretical nonsense, if you will), reminiscent of Proppian analysis, nevertheless fails to realize that such a research is restricted from the outset, as myth is taken to have a particular, finite meaning, to which I strongly oppose. The meaning – and consequently the level of its communication – is relative at least to both the reader and the tradition in question. Myth will forever remain “alive” as the method of disseminating the essence of tradition, culture and legacy of old. Learning the past, to recognize the present and help shape the future. Ideal or not, written or oral, this is still a heavy-duty communication tool.
However, paralleling this theory to the monomyth, as a guiding principle of myth making, myth meaning cannot be relegated to structures alone (i.e. language), since particularly “living” myths across the world transcend them. Myth is both spiritual and pragmatic, rational and irrational, sacred and profane, communicating more general human values as well as very local, even obscure beliefs. Myth communicates the beauty and the banality of old, so we often need to do quite a little digging or reading the plethora of myths, if we are to uncover the gold, buried in the depths or between the lines.
I would say that strictly speaking, Levi-Strauss’ mythemes (the unchanging building blocks of myths) not only have significance out of their original environment, but their significance transcends culture and applies to human nature. The clearest example of the power of mythic storytelling and its communicative value is the widespread of religions throughout the world, particularly in cultures very distant from its original content (such as Buddhism in the West or Islam in the Pacific region). This should, however, not be mistaken for the narrow-minded self-justification and grandeur of various religions; as if to claim that the Bible is sacred because God created it, which is in turn stated in the Bible itself. While some biblical paradoxes (such as the dual creation stories, reflecting both the divine and the human perspective on creation) are intentional and profound, we also need to balance some shortsightedness or shortcomings of myth as pure teaching tool with its glorification for the sake of being glorified.
However, we can make a strong case for Levi-Strauss’ notion that different versions of myth serve as building blocks; the wisdom and truth in myths like in Buddha’s teachings (which may even seem contradictory) lie in their totality, as each version of the myth, each teaching, each allegory is only a partial truth. The more we are acquainted to myth, the more of the truth becomes clear. Myth communicates a deeper sense of knowledge and wisdom, especially from perspectives of cultures different from your own. Only in trying to understand someone else’s perspective (no matter how weird of even stupid it may seem to you) and particularly discovering numerous trans-cultural similarities can you begin to discover a higher truth in yourself. Paraphrasing through the central Hindu notion of oneness, once you realize that you are a part of larger reality, that Atman equals Brahman (that thou art that), you embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment.
[In memory of my beloved grandmother.]
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE):
MYTH AS POETRY
The second important component of myth is its poetic nature. This might be the more obvious fact, since we have been privileged enough by the survival of the great epic poems such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, The Mahabharata and many more across the globe. Arguably, these works are a collection of generations of oral stories that have been accumulated and eventually written down. While such “fossilization” destroys the flexibility of an oral story and its memorization, as it loses its performance factor and the differentiations of every further storytelling, the written preservation of the cultural legacy is surely a greater factor … whether or not the great Socrates would agree.
The question of either orally preserving a story, thus furthering its “growth” through the generations, or writing it down and rationally offering a better chance of its survival is not as dubious as one might think at first glance, since the actual loss of the story of Theseus would be far worse than losing the ability of differentiating its many incarnations. Once you know of Theseus, you can theorize and research the tradition of the story and character, even its possible versions, but without the knowledge of this famous Athenian’s existence, Greek mythic legacy would be colossally bleaker.
There is unquestionable wonder surrounding greater artistry or rather artistry of a different degree in poetry and especially epic poetry. Pragmatically, the ability to compose poetry may nowadays seem more as a “poetic gift” than a learned skill; however, we have to understand that poetic, musical and to large extent general artistic skills dwindle in the shadow of arithmetic and language skills, as the more formalistic, scientific culture sets the trends. While prose functions differently, it is the emotional and participatory nature of poetry that has a powerful effect on its audience. The poetic value and nature of myth is closely connected with rituals, as many sacred stories have been annually used in religious procedures, part of fertility rituals or as a spiritual gateway to the sacred reality. In such a way, we can distinguish between two modes of dissemination of a myth: through the bard and through the priest. While the phonetic value of assonances and repetitions can for example serve both to orally inspire the public, the difference between the two can be for the sake of simplification through the lens of religious doctrine. If the bard represents the more “laid-back” mythic reenactment of the story, the priest serves as the more “serious” religious counterpart, where the sacrality of either the text (Koran), the tradition (Islam) or the actual live religious process takes center stage.
The poetic value of myth shares in the almost transcending effect of poetry and songs throughout history and their appeal to their public, whether referring to Bach or pop songs (not to deny that there is a world of difference in just about everything else but their shared affect). Traditionally, the Hindu Vedas are to be experienced rather than cognitively understood, which further directly reflects the Daoist paradox that the Dao cannot be understood by any of the means the Western culture rationally employs. What is more, the vocalization and correct pronunciation of sounds in the sacred incantations places phonetic power above the actual meaning of the sacred narratives. While the Hindu tradition represents the most widespread use of sacred incantations, the African Bambara mythology for example also places vast importance on the sound of creation; namely, the sound yo as the source of the highest state of consciousness.
Thus, the visualization of the symbol for aum is as arbitrary as the images on this paper. The more common Anglicized version for \ is om. The tree-letter aum variation is used to visually and phonetically emphasize the three stages of the sound, followed by the emptiness. Nevertheless, the sacredness of the sound transcends its conception like the mind transcends the body in the larger Hindu belief system, connecting the person with the tradition, ritual, enactment of the myth and through the three stages of the sound with the divine (emptiness) in the end … at the end … or beyond the end.
In such a way, the poetic value of myth shares a strong connection to the previous observation of myths as oral stories. Sikhs for example follow a Socratic (or Platonic to an extent) premise that writing cannot capture the essence of being, thought, or in this case magnitude of the divine which is transcended through the songs and rituals. The “inappropriateness” or the limits of (finite) writing as a medium for sacred narratives is central to many traditions. While the divine (eternal) “word” of Allah in Koran refers to about the most sacred writing of any culture, Muslims have a long-standing tradition of learning literally the whole of Koran verbatim, appropriate with the transcendent vocalization. Whether or not myth is externally vocalized through the mouth or internally through reading in the mind, the ensuing story nevertheless in one way or another takes center stage, as it offers various stages of learning, serving as the stepping stone towards life experience every one of us requires.
MYTHIC CONNECTIONS (MYTH IN PRACTICE)
To state that the study of mythology is complex, is an understatement of unparalleled proportions. We could extend this to the larger role in the study of culture, tradition or folklore, where we pursue the understandings, origins, explanations and methods of inquiry of the given subject matter. Mythology nevertheless persists as the progenitor of imaginary and pseudo-scientific doctrines that we still base our lives and popular culture on. From the names of the stars in the night’s sky to the heroes in comics and fiction, myth seems to be the basis of reality of human being, whether we want to admit it or not. Myth becomes its own capital Archetype, rooted in our subject matter. It extends beyond theoretical applications, and is much more than a mere linear perspective. With mythology we can refer to the natural purposes of myths, connections we can deduct from the study of these stories and the functions and perspectives of myths.
From this position, I will be discussing mythology in relation to oral storytelling. poetry, communication, recordkeeping, aetiology, allegory, art and human nature. While all of this clearly overlaps, I feel that these topics go hand in hand with the larger theory of myth, which I went through in my other post(s).
MYTH AS ORAL STORYTELLING
Probably the most powerful mythic component is its predominantly oral origin and oral nature of its conception and (re)enactment. This might not seem as obvious, since for the most mundane researchers of these ancient legacies, myths are read as stories, not heard and even less so participated in, as was and in some instances still to this day.
(Some African and Aboriginal tribes for example still enact their origins, and “perform” their myths, where their tradition and legacy are interwoven not merely with the educational and entertaining nature of the told story, but with internalization from the audience and its cooperation. This of course reflects the ritualistic and etiological nature of myth. Consequently, this kind of observation of a live tradition is a powerful anthropological tool for understanding myth in its purest form … Bearing in mind issues like Malinowski’s “principles” in his study of the Trobriand islanders.)
Such a “distant” study of myth is unfortunately far removed from a more cohesive analysis. In a sense, the vast majority of us are looking at any given myth from the outside, partaking mostly in its more modern literal form (if not various interpretations and reimaginings), heavily bereft from the nature of its initial, pure conception. The myth of old can be viewed as a mixture of cultural, educational, political and leisure processes, while its legacy in a cross-cultural environment is nevertheless hindered. Obviously, there is an innate value of myth that extends beyond time and space, since it pertains to stories about humanity and for humanity. The previously discussed heroic quest is a particular example of the consistency and relevance of a mythic “narrative” even (or especially) in today’s multi-faceted world culture.
Oral storytelling is not a lost art, but in today’s world it has extended beyond its initial paradigm of instruction and reflection of the world. Through the invention of television, “oral” storytelling has been promoted to a higher plateau than ever before, despite its sacrifice of active participation. The intimate stories once orally told are being fast replaced by more fantastic visuals of the digital world.
Drama, improvisational comedy and even professional wrestling in its purest sense draw on the storytelling suspense and interaction with the audience, without which there would be no story to be told. Strictly speaking, any type of fiction and entertainment requires a high level of suspension of disbelief, because reading, watching, hearing or telling a story essentially means participating in it as the pure receptive marks that we are.
Myth may on the other hand be a distant story from a seemingly long-dead civilization, which powerfully draws on both the question of humanity and natural observations, thus despite its age making it perpetually current, inspirational and, what is more, transcended in its message despite its form.
My current list of comics and books I’m selling. I’ll by updating it as we go along. Some of the pics are a bit blurry, so sorry for that, but you get the gist of it.
Moj trenutni seznam stripov in knjig, ki jih prodajam. Sproti ga bom posodabljal. Se opravičujem za zamegljene fotke, a bistvo je razvidno.
I’ve been meaning to clean up my hard drives again, because the accumulation of stuff has slowly but surely been going out of hand. It hit me that my portable disks are crammed with more or less the same things I’ve been saving since the days of DVDs, if not CDs. Coincidentally, being from the VHS generation, the newer modern means of storing data definitely comes in handy, if you don’t have a villa or at least a spare room to physically store either the memories or the crap you’ve been hoarding for all those years.
Sometimes I wonder what will I in fact be needing in the near and distant future. To be honest, the family pictures and personal stuff of that kind means much more than series, stories, games, lectures and the like that at least I store on our portable devices. All of this stuff is essentially a tie-in between the past and the future, or rather my past and future. This bears the question of where the present moment comes in and what it actually means to experience things in the here and now, as opposed to being the subject of seemingly endless supply of member berries that are for the most part self-inflicted. BTW, thank you, South Park, for keepin’ it real!
Anyway, as I was getting rid of my vast VHS collection a couple of years ago, when I was cleaning my cluster of childhood cram, I was recollecting on the old-school way of watching film and taking care of tapes and such. I took one cassette out of its slightly dusty cover and I could still clearly see the heavily (over)used magnetic tape. A walk down memory lane. It was kind of bitter-sweet in knowing I have mostly nice memories associated with those tapes and yet also knowing I have to get rid of them … the tapes, not the memories, because I won’t ever watch a cassette again and can’t pass them on either. The technology changes are so rapid, that saving old VHSs is akin to saving your dusty-ass commodore … if you had one. The time has simply passed them. The memories remain as they should, but unless you’re planning on opening your very own museum of old techs, you’re better of letting go of the old hulks of electronics.
Funnily enough, the same goes for the CDs and DVDs. Although they take up much less of a shell space, you have to ask yourself if you’re really ever gonna watch an old TV show or play an old game on a slightly scratched disk that you’re not even sure if it will work anymore or play as it did in the old “glory” days … or have the same meaning as it did before.
Now, the CD-VHS dichotomy is interesting from the perspective of rights and originality. It’s safe to say that most of us had home-made tapes, while CDs (especially music and games) were originals … until file-sharing became a thing that hit big with the torrent generation, of course. This is not really about piracy (whether or not you view it in inverted commas), it’s more about the means of getting your information and the stuff you like(d). When Internet was not the all-seeing eye yet, the effort of making a compilation of your TV-shows or music was a laborious process … either waiting patiently for the commercials to end, unpausing your VHS-recorder (because tape space was a big deal back then), or waiting even more patiently for your music to download (we’re talking about days, not seconds here).
If I fast-forward to today, there is obviously a chance your car has a CD/DVD-player, so you can enjoy your home-made blast-from-the-past-collections like the top-shit DJ that you are, but that’s not always the case. Hell, modern computers don’t even have DVD-players any more, let alone a floppy disk that was the first one that got limp and forgotten. It’s all about smaller and stronger devices now … and rightly so.
Taking into consideration the rapid changes in information gathering and saving, getting rig of bags-full of VHSs really wasn’t that big of a deal. Just as much as it isn’t a big deal if a file or two get corrupted on your PC over time, because the chances of you really needing them is becoming more and more slim as your accumulation of stuff continues. This is just our spoiled ego wanting something and trying desperately to hold onto it like Gollum holding onto his precious ring … that wasn’t actually his and which inevitably led to his own demise.
I remember when I was researching for my dissertation and especially as far as mythology goes some books were harder to come by. Vandiver’s Heroes in Herodotus comes to mind. I was obsessing about it for over a year, because I couldn’t order either a physical or a digital copy. I got hooked on Vandiver through her audio and video lectures, because she in my mind embodied the essence of a great academic (or rather, she still does), namely: understanding the basics and complexity of your subject matter, knowing how to express it fluently and interestingly, and unveiling not just interesting information, but in a lot of cases deconstructing some misconceptions about said subject matter (of mythology). In the end, I managed to dig up the book from some library in France and had it shipped to the National library here in Slovenia. It took forever, it wasn’t cheap, it was in bad shape, but I finally got it. And then? Well, the book definitely was worth the effort, but to be honest, it didn’t really add anything groundbreaking in my own understanding of myth. I think it was just about that pesky academic dogma of references for the sake of references.
This ties in to what my former mentor said about my hesitancy to research comics for my diploma, because it was essentially a new endeavor altogether. She said that it’s hard (if not impossible) to keep in touch with any given subject. However, if you have keen interest in it, you can manage much more than you can imagine, especially though hard work. It may sound like a cheesy pep talk, but I knew exactly what she meant and she was very honest (especially now looking back). If you love what you do and see merit in it (financial gains aside), you can make up for a lot of what you didn’t know beforehand. I mean, I read comics as a kid like most of us did, but it was still potentially too much for me to go into this new subject given the allotted time I had to finish the paper. Luckily, I endured and discovered (if not rediscovered) my passion for comics and consequentially visual culture in general. So, thank you again, Veronika!
This ties into films as much as it did mythology later on, because myths (stories in general) were (again) a subject matter I enjoyed when I was younger, but had let go over the years. It seems that things come around and one’s inherent interests will always have a lovely grip on you are your reality. I can relate all of this to the whole cleaning is cleansing topic discussed here, because a lot of stuff on my disks in study-related: lectures and books and the like. Alas, no porn (any more) … As much as I would like to think that I will watch, listen or read most of the things I saved on my digital mainframe over the years, that applies only to a small number of works and with more and more of them constantly being produced, the rest of your saved stuff is there just for the sake of being there, you know: just in case. In case of what? The mythical deluge? World war? Profound epiphany? If you don’t need it, if you don’t intend to pass it on and are not sure if you ever will, you might as well get rid of it. Cleaning becomes cleansing becomes purification. Self-baptism galore!
Think of it this way: ask yourself what is your most prized possession. And don’t say you don’t have anything like that, because we all do. It can be a photo, a book, a film, an album, etc. Think about it, what makes it special and why you need it. The truth is, in most cases we really don’t need it. You’ll retain the memory of said object whether you engage in it on a daily basis or not. And here’s the kicker: if your memory of it isn’t all that great, that just means you didn’t really need it as much as you thought. In Buddhist terms this is just unwanted fixation that holds you back from seeing the light and focusing on bettering yourself. Well, in Buddhist terms that can relate to the memories themselves, but that’s another thing in itself. The point is that we can live without our fabled prized possessions just fine (and we do actually), we just don’t want to admit it. These are our baby blankets we don’t want to let go in the “big bad world” we live in as adults.
I don’t have a favorite book for example, because my interests are manifold and I try to view each work in its own light and in its own right. Smith’s colored and collected Bone series comes close, because it was a birthday present, I know it cost a fortune, it’s a comics masterpiece and it’s 1500 pages of storytelling delights that can because of its thickness and shear mass be used as a weapon to boot … but I haven’t opened it in a while and as much as I love proudly parading it on my shelf, the world (or rather my world) wouldn’t end if I didn’t have it anymore.
Humans are hoarders by nature, plain and simple. The whole agricultural system that went hand in hand with the birth of cities and civilizations became one immensely large silo of grain that the heavily-consuming species that we are need … yet, we live in a world that’s on the one hand plagued by obesity and extreme poverty on the other. How can we even come to terms with that? I suggest that first we take the effort to come to terms with who and what we are individually and socially, so the unhealthy ego of mindless gluttony and hoarding gets replaced by the apt ego of positive change that is the drive for progress in general.
With that in mind, “confirm folder delete”? Yes, indeed!
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
I want to expand on the last post about Mythology and Phenomenology by stressing the probably the most interesting part, which is also the most problematic, if not controversial; namely, the interplay of science and religion. Although it may seem more fitting to write science vs. religion, that kind of position is largely unproductive and dismissiveness bears few tasty fruits. And since I am of the mind that this sci-rel interplay should be positive and fruitful, cooperation is key, because nothing (of real merit) exists in vacuum.
The dichotomy of science and religion is one of the central paradoxes in the modern, science-based view of the world – paradoxical in the sense that science and religion are viewed not merely as opposites, but archenemies in the perpetual whirlwind of one-upmanship and desire for global domination. While the first seeks answers from the outside, the second turns inwards and foregoes factuality for pure belief and faith. Both have drawbacks and both can inspire masses, but in one way or another their subject matter is rooted in myths – either to dispel them or to cherish them as sacred objects.
The search for the meaning of life is not just a philosophical conundrum or a future doctrine in the making; it is the very life of what we do in our daily lives and the driving force of our actions … the very ink (or differently colored pixels) in these sentences being read at this very moment. As much as we need to look forward to propel our knowledge of the world and for the world, we must not lose sight of myths as the origins and blueprints of our life journey.
As much as Shakespeare has been examined and discussed in debt, his canon of works still holds countless secrets to be discovered. Myths have similar power, however in a greater scheme of things still. We are constantly only one generation away from losing sight of the wisdom of old that gives us better lives in the future, if only we listen to it. Only one generation of forgetting Plato can eradicate a vital part of our conception about thinking. For this very reason it is essential to constantly reread and reevaluate the lessons of ancient progenitors of humanity.
Forgetting myths is akin to forgetting cultural history, forgetting humanity itself. In light of materialism and hard capitalism of today, the last sentence sticks out like a sore thumb, but nevertheless. The sacred sphere takes the relative/subjective value of an occurrence (such as marriage) or a person (upon reaching a threshold) and places them beyond their sacrality and truth in themselves into the objective sacredness (thus marriage gets a significant meaning). Marriage even begins to play a vital role in our profane existence, as a modern reinterpretation and reapplication through a non-religious hermeneutic cycle of worth and value. Love in the marriage reflects the love of God and the ultimate reality, playing upon one of the golden rules that is not just central to all religions, but is the basis for the conglomerate that is the social paradigm of humanity.
Myth is a mosaic of views and appropriate theories as methodological pluralism, reflecting the multitude of subjective views that make up the collective objective picture of the world. The question of subjectivity and objective reality may be impossible to answer (paradoxically to everyone’s liking). While postmodernism denies objectivity in itself, as we are all mere subjective imprints of the greater social being that we create, ancient traditions like Daoism refer to exactly this interplay of internal subjectivity and external objectivity; the world as such is made of both and flows from the sacred to the profane and back in an endless cycle of life (the aggrandized hermeneutic cycle of sorts).
In terms of theory and academic research, methodological pluralism occupies a similarly complex, “objective” approach to understanding art in general. Albeit in this case, the stigma is not against a narrow view on a particular theory, but a constant search for better understanding and consequent application of theory. While the search for absolutism in art can be an insurmountable obstacle, the desire and willingness to understand different point of view of a given work is crucial to getting that artistic epiphany and seeing the proverbial picture in its truest meaning, i.e. its most objective light. Humans have a predisposition towards particular subjects that stem directly from one’s own self and will therefore always naturally turn towards the direction that personally suits them; yet, it is the awareness of the rest of the paths (theories) that creates contrast and keeps the subjective personal reality in check with the socially objective one(s). This is the dichotomy of religion vs. science, of knowing the rules before breaking them and of understanding the world of myth and comics before managing any sort of valid discussion about either of them. Objectivity may in fact be attainable, but its clairvoyance and perditious path is akin to Siddhartha Gautama’s struggle to reach nirvana.
Returning back to the topic at hand, semantically, we distinguish god from God by mere capitalization, yet its function cannot be measured in ink. Similarly, if everyone has its own life and we call this the subjective view. We have the objective perception of the world as well, which is predominantly rooted in factuality, the scientific view and the nature of things in themselves. But even this can be labeled as relative or at least a temporal truth, until a better, more honest reality is determined … and science essentially constantly one-ups itself to the point that it deconstructs its old “factual truths”. In such a way, the conception of God may be akin to the conception of Objectivity, the reality beyond (human grasp of) reality, the Brahman, the Dao, Heidegger’s Being or Kantian Sublime. Obvious parallels can be further drawn towards Kant’s perceptions of being and questioning whether our sense can in fact provide an accurate view of what there is … or rather Is … I mean IS. In this case, the verb view cannot be overused, since the majority of our internal and external conceptions are based on sight. Whether or not this leads to insight is another matter, but as much as great minds of the past and present have already uncovered, the fact (still) remains that we have merely began to scratch the surface of the greater truths of Being.
Objective value may be taken as the level of excellence. Thinking of canonical works, their objective position as “the best” goes beyond one’s perception of actually understanding them. Picasso’s and Dali’s works excel on many levels, yet most people nevertheless find their obscure worldviews at least somewhat disturbing, the same way as Shakespeare’s richness of language can easily overwhelm his (especially non-traditional) readers. All the creators of myth and art need to be taken in a larger sense and observed as complexly as possible: for the intrinsic values of their works themselves as well as the(ir) contribution to the human race. This observance places the notion of objectivity further under scrutiny; I propose the term SUBJECTIVE OBJECTIVITY, which makes best use of limited means, nowadays especially though science, coming as close to objective perception as we possibly can without being able to uncover the true essence of theoretically timeless Being, which is beyond human limits that our more than obvious temporal existence is plagued with. Humanity as such is drenched in finality and can only strive to come close to Objectivity and God. Myths, through their distorted facts about life and insightful messages about our existence, in a way offer a passageway to higher thinking and higher functions that we need to strive towards, if we want to continue the upward trend and prove the progressive evolution principle.
Religious truth is the search in the realm of aspiration. We cannot be sure, if the convergence with God takes place, so we need faith to carry the mantle of greater truth until we reach it ourselves. Religious truth becomes our perennial object of aspiration, parallel to the scientific final truth about nature. Pragmatically, the truly important things in life can only be aspired towards, since they have value in themselves. This temporal, physical existence does not allow for greater certainty as we desire it (even science is based on presumption and acceptance of the fact that reality in fact exists) – especially due to the current materialistically-spoiled and answer-driven culture, where value is more and more measured by what can immediately and without a shadow of a doubt be placed on the plate of mindless consumption.
The search for Truth is somewhat paradoxically an aspiration for betterment that may not yield any results (in this life, even for the one searching), but one’s legacy may not only teach, but open the eyes of the generations to come (i.e. Jesus, Galileo). Philosophy and religion may deal with extremely difficult metaphysical matters that propose more question than they give answers to, yet their unquenching appetite for knowledge and wisdom have always propelled human understanding of the self and the universe forward (obviously equally applies to science pes se). Without “thinking” as such, there would be no progression, no liberal or conservative movements, no science and the words on this digital page would be not merely nonexistent, but beyond the scope of even thinking about words. This is a direct correlation to the mythic path, which is supposed to be paved with obstacles; the final revelation is merely the icing on the cake, the final layer without which the cake of life is incomplete nonetheless. The future Buddha's final life before awakening was in fact the hardest of all, as the object of his awakening was close as hand like Tantalus was (although from an entirely different perception) endlessly close to nourishment, yet tantalizingly (pun intended) beyond normal conception … except Siddhartha Gautama’s progressed state.
Complete attainment is not in the realm of religion or philosophy, for it is the subject of scientific research. It presupposes an important, sublime, even dangerous path for the mind to traverse and uphold, since it may in fact deconstruct perception of being for most (religious) people in this world. If God, Love (agape, the unconditional love), Truth or Objectivity is the goal of our search, it is perplexingly dangerous (since complete attainment dissolves all future human endeavors and annuls progression that we strive towards), but it paradoxically must remain the fundamental precept of everything that we do, because that is one of the building blocks of human nature. If we want to pursue the case of this mosaic of truth, myth needs to (re)take center stage and remain the marker for inquiry and discovery.
The obvious critique of this seemingly overpresumptuous cadence of myth can be traced back to Aristotle, whose metaphysics differentiated between myth and philosophy, the latter being akin to science. Myths can equally be seen as the primordial “scientific” explanations about the cosmos and consequently about humanity and the human psyche. However, the main reason why myth(ology) takes such high importance in my research is its unparalleled prominence as the predecessor of artistic, scientific, religious, historic and philosophic thought of the present and future generations. In other words, if philosophy is the love of wisdom, myth is the philosophy before philosophy, whose love transcends towards religious Love and its wisdom stirs the eternal human unconscious even through the obscure and unfactual means myth takes such delight in.
Science and religion are rooted in all of that majestic mumbo-jumbo. I dunno how much sense it makes to you, but it puts things in perspective a bit more and connects a few more dots, so I’m happy with that.
The contribution of phenomenology to the study of myth and especially religion lies in its direct and consequently more serious approach; this means that phenomenology refers to the study of religion in itself, as a distinct discipline with its own subject matter. Consequently, the phenomena, such as ritual, sacred texts and traditions are brought into the limelight without a general reductionist approach as was commonly the case … specifically at the outset of every new methodological tradition (where patrons and personal goals are the predominant factors that give rise of subjective inquiry). This means that phenomenology goes beyond the methodological atheism that the aforementioned and discussed theories and approaches in my Myth in theory series generally adhere to. The exploration of the phenomenological subject matter requires the factual examination to give way to emotional, personal and spiritual positions.
The roots of phenomenology can actually be found at the very beginnings of religious thought, where religion and myth were considered sacred and thus viewed seriously and with reverence. There’s plenty of paradoxical irony here, of course. The issue of objectivity certainly comes into play, as there has always remained a distinction between the objective/academic/scientific position and the subjective/intricate/religious view, perhaps most notably observed by Kant. The central paradox is thus assumed; namely, how can one critically study a subject, when its conception is based on matters beyond the factual and physical approach? Dare I say POST-META-physics!?
What the worldly sphere wants to scientifically scrutinize is actually rooted in the world beyond; this is the paradigm of what Eliade divides between the profane and the sacred, the world of society and the world of myth. Essentially, we have returned to the issue of science versus religion, the duality of body and mind, fundamentally the concept of the Dao not being present in the now or the physical reality. This is consequently not only a philosophical dead end but a conundrum for any research like mine that kind of walks on the fringes of what is concrete and what can essentially never be completely understood within the confines of current human evolution. Plus, this already touches upon the Kantian paradox of not being able to prove God’s existence, yet not being able to disprove it either, which is not only one of my personal favorite concepts because it essentially “attacks” both sides of science and religion, but this agnostic paradox is pragmatically very much still in effect.
The duality of science and religion is something that has always interested me personally and academically. Truth be told, the perpetual tug-of-war between the fields is still raging, however, the distinction between these two long-held rivalries lies not in their seeming opposition, but their commonality and cooperation. Just as the yang and yin are not separate but integral in each other as the spherical symbol itself denotes, so the world we inhabit operates between different positions which are not excluding (or at least should not be), but are interwoven as any scientific or academic theory is. Life is intertwined, plain and simple. Even if you’re lucky enough to master a particular field or endeavor, you’ve essentially done nothing, because you are still a minnow in a miniscule pond of potential that we have only begun to explore. It’s not nihilism or some post-existentialism, this goes far beyond money, ego, success, morality and many more issues that we either hold dear to or take for granted, especially when it comes to Being itself (speaking either strictly philosophically or extremely concretely …or rather both). That may be a hard pill to swallow, but if you really think about it beyond yourself, it’s as true as it has always been.
Now, how does this refer to myth? Myths in the sense of stories of Being connect the human condition to the (perceived) reality our condition occupies. While myths may seem like an absolute, fantastic position, even touching upon blind religious obedience, their factual analysis occurs on a seemingly opposite field, the “absolutism” of each is dependent on each other and the middle way of appreciating myth in itself and understanding the blueprints that make up its subject matter seems to be the only palpable position to take. Take the example of the word logos: meaning either word or reason. This perfectly illustrates how religious texts entice the readers to experience their teachings not merely through passive reception, but actually reason and try to find deeper understanding of the subject matter. Thus, it becomes clear that just as myths and religions function on different levels, logos as such demands simultaneous awareness of both meanings (if not more). Consequently, the demand for a distinction between myth and religion or science and religion pales in comparison to a greater holistic comprehension of our subject matter and ourselves.
If religions were obsolete, time would have already devoured them and their many offspring (denominations). Why else would esteemed academic professors still be devout in their religious approach? Why hold to doctrine and tradition of let’s say the Biblical cosmogony, when you can scientifically prove that the world is much older and differently structured? On the other hand, how could Indian sages account for a much much more vast existence beyond the human gaze and conception (even today), if their understanding of scientific facts was “primitive”? Equally, if most of the world still holds near and dear to their religious roots and traditions, why is the mainstream geared more towards science?
Perhaps the best answer is that we need both science and religion to keep each other in check, in a sense maintaining balance by not allowing any mode of reasoning and being to become too pervasive and hegemonic. Succumbing to merely one point of view – no matter how truthful or factual it seems – denigrates the kaleidoscope of thought to absolutism and verges on doctrine (and I mean doctrine as stale dogma, not its original meaning of correct way). I tend to rave about the holistic approach (that I’m still piecing together), because it goes beyond ego and temporal ideology. At least in theory, because the amount of research needed to “master” numerous subjects can quickly verge on the palpable idea of parallel universes, when you’re paradoxically only occupying one. This isn’t meant as a self-deprecating excuse, because I would much rather be privy to parallel existence than not. Also, it’s not about perfection, because that’s as fabled as any divinity. It’s about rooting out unnecessary reductionism and narrowmindedness that set traps for us at every corner. Hello, google generation! Hell, from Nietzsche’s perspective, even liberal democracy presupposes its own dogma and ways of thinking and acting. To carry the analogy further, the democratic model has never been an ideal, neither from its original Athenian roots, deeply embedded in slavery, nor in its current representative form at the backdrop of institutional capitalism. Most of us are still living in the world of aristocracy
As mythologies in theory (unwillingly and unknowingly) depend on tricksters or trickster-like figures to stir the status-quo, we as humans depend on the imagination just as much as we do on hard scientific facts … and in both cases this “anarchy” is inevitable meant as advancement in one way or another. There is no science without imagination. You can’t just dream up the notion of a black hole or dark matter just by looking at movements of celestial bodies and the interplay of their shadows, you need foresight and insight in the same light. Inside or outside a religion, faith and belief are central to our being. In one way or another – even as children – we have to take things at face value (learning the rules) before discovering your own truth (breaking them). We have to let go of our ego and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to our lack of information and knowledge. Opening ourselves up to the world of science and religion (or what they represent) is not just the prerequisite, but rather the norm, the central doctrine we live by. Consequently, the interaction of the self and the world is ever-present.
Similarly to the perception of myth placed between extremes of a sacred and false story, we can observe two central processes that have (depending on one’s position) either driven or plagued (mis)understanding of faiths; namely, the paradoxical relationship between the conceptions of fear and love. Looking from the outside in, true religion is essentially marked more by fear than love, especially through the notion of awe. A profound reversal of the love-inspired Christian teachings of today (or perhaps professed by the mainstream). Historically we can see fear of hell (through institutional demands of the Church) as the first step towards knowledge, with love and thus wisdom as the final goal.
Either in the presence of an actual divine force or psychologically condensed state of implied sacrality, awe as the Kantian sublime refers to the presence of a very “scientific” force beyond human comprehension. The sacred must be by default extremely different from the known mundane world; the hero, priest, shaman or prophet must feel the presence or be in the presence of something unprecedented in order to make the relevance and magnitude of faith a worthy cause. Even to the point of overemphasizing the divine, since the followers can hardly internalize the same true power as the few chosen have been privy to. (How can you comprehend one or many infinities, if the core of your know perception is rooted in finiteness?) This is not a justification of charlatans or false prophets, but refers to the true revelation that goes beyond personal means. Further, this reflects the reality of our world, where the many follow the ruling of the few, whether or not the ideal of the philosopher king is justified. But the ideal should nevertheless always be perused, yet there’s a lot to be said that the Ideal is beyond the conception of what we currently are as humans.
The fear factor becomes a natural, instinctual response, as if marveling at the first sight of the lightning of the mighty Zeus. Awe essentially means nothing and is false if it can simply be “understood” and thus taken for granted, or is too personal, as if being uneasy about the divine out of fear of eternal damnation; akin to love as unwavering belief or blind faith that borders on brainwashing and can be both religiously and politically exploited.
All in all, the mundane society and the sacrality of myth are closely connected, just as much as the mind and the body need to coexist. Well, surely we’re not in the Matrix. Or at least if we do “live” in a simulated digital or spiritual reality, the details and believability of this program are quite extraordinary, especially if this sucker is running on high-settings … I’m just not sure if I wanna know what exactly I’m plugged into in through which orifice.
The mythic paradox is thus not a paradox, but a requirement of trying to understand different positions in themselves; a sort of “empathy”, if you will. Why else does the mundane world or the scientific sphere reject blind faith, yet still count the history of the world from the vantage point of the most famous religious martyr that may or may not have existed? (The simple answer is: because it’s easier.) Why are most celestial objects given mythic names? (Again, awe and tradition … plus, it’s easier to think of Venus than a combination of digits and letter.) The connection between society and religion is almost inseparable. In this context, the religious, imaginative, other-worldly position functions as the extra-perception, even the sixth sense. As it plays the role of art to the requirements of survival and reproduction, it is the expressive potential and the essential driving force of understanding and being. While science may in theory desire to understand everything objectively and beyond ideology, human ego and social constructs are the largest and most powerful tools that we unfortunately have perennially (or only) at our disposal, so we are always gradually tearing down the great mausoleums of old (beliefs) and building brick by brick not a new world, but a clearer world based on their majestic foundations that we owe everything that we are and … are yet to become.
Probably the most infamous connection and possible explanation of mythology is to the human subconscious. In this case, it would be better to specifically say explanation of myths, especially if we in light of the psychological lens consider the individual mythic stories as particular dreams that make up the whole dreamscape reality … a reality that is as complex to comprehend and actually envision through the subconscious as is the whole individual mythological tradition various myths are rooted in.
However, as soon as we consider myths as mere reflections of one’s self or mere dreams, it’s notoriously hard to overlook the position of mythology as something less than the dreamstate. Yet, the myth as dreams theorem paradoxically does not just undermine the potentially far-reaching social, cultural, anthropological traits of myths, it actually enhances their notoriety by trying to understand them as building blocks of one (more or less formalistic, if not structuralistic) way or another … in this case the psyche. All of this is the power of psychology.
Nevertheless, we tend to focus on the “negative”, as the biologically dandy negativity bias presumes. Once the unconscious is let out of the proverbial bag, it’s hard to take the supernatural in myth as serious as in the not so distant past. And not merely that, because the idea of the metaphysics of myth obviously goes beyond both space and time. This is just the modern scientific dogma of thinking we can prove everything and dissect even more than that in order to finally disperse and get rid of anything and everything in connection to the pesky anti-scientific religion … and myth as the religious backbone is indeed the crux of the matter in more ways than one.
Since psychology deals with the mind on the conscious and unconscious level, the issue of behavior, thoughts, beliefs and “truths” can be easily misconstrued, which can and does affect not just one’s conduct, but one’s perception of every single aspect that we can think of. And when you apply that on the larger social level, you easily get enhanced/multiplied versions of thoughts and actions, the reality and factuality of which are far from the main goal. In such a way, the story of a cultural myth is the myth of the story of life, where you play the game of life as best as you can, given your personal biological/cognitive settings.
And before this turns into a tangent about some relativism of life that bears little semblance to the subject matter, the point I’m trying to make is that psychology is – just like every single lens of mythological survey that I’m butchering in this Myth in Theory series of posts – far from perfect in its approach and consequences. It’s not really about perfection as much as about factuality and truth as in any scientific approach, although this fabled … dare I say mythic … notion of perfection is something that I’ve always felt is at the core of psychological examinations. Maybe things get lost in translation, authors in this field express themselves in a particular way or I just don’t get it enough, but when you read especially notorious authors like Freud, you get a sense of grandeur and overwhelming importance at work … whether that is self-imposed or not is another matter.
The other thing is that when I began talking about dreams right off the bat, I was obviously looking at only a certain idea from the immense framework of psychological research. On the other hand, psychological methodology in general to me is extremely diverse and interconnected. From Rank, Peirce, Lacan to Levi-Strauss, psychology and psychoanalysis readily combine with other fields of language study, structuralism(s) and other deconstructive (post)modern theories. Since the mind is at the center of examination and the neural connections between our synapses fire just a bit differently for each and every one of us, it’s actually fantastically ingenious and observant to find concrete and factual connections between us, especially on the “hidden” unconscious level … or on the level of Freudian psychic structures and Jungian archetypes and dreams to circle back.
I would say that the majority of psychological applications to myth stem from influential albeit accordingly quite different researches of Freud and Jung. At least I feel their respective researches have entered the mainstream more than others. I mean, considering popular culture and myth alike, there is plenty of juicy stuff to choose from: from Schrödinger's cat and the paradox of myths as both equally alive as the human condition and dismissed as human religious folly … to Pavlov's dogs as the vague reimagination of Heracles’s (Hellenistic) subjugation of Cerberus’s power which represents nature itself. That’s the juicy stuff that tickles my fancy.
To touch a bit more on Freud and Jung as the psychological yang-yin pairing galore, Freud’s “neurotic” view of religion places myth in the same category of undesired, even primitive stories of the subconscious that hold no academic value, while Jung, on the other hand takes a more holistic and more global approach to myth and religion, reflecting on the issue of dualism, importance of dreams as mythic windows to our world and (equally fixed and fluid) archetypes as the unconscious clues of our understanding of our consequent humanity. If Freud is the conservative straight line in the religious narrative, dismissive to the point of rendering it (scientifically) obsolete, Jung is the sphere that merges oppositions and adds layers to religious understanding. As such, the Trinity for example gets both the Feminine and the Negative principle … and you know that the forced liberals of today gots to love dem apples!
To kind of sum up, if myth (psychologically) indeed happens in the head, it’s a powerful cognitive stimulant that has influenced many a culture and seems to still have intrinsic value for the (post)modern society as well. If myth is a combination of one’s internal world and the greater reality we occupy, it still represents clues of our psyche through which we peer into the mechanism of our very Being. While obviously not all myths are impressive or touch upon the doings of human beings, they were nevertheless written by human authors (looking at the stories from outside of the sacred tradition) and thus reflect human nature in one way or another. Either taking into account the very subjective works of Hesiod, much more meticulous writings of Muslim and Christian body of sacred stories, or the live interplay and enactment of Aboriginal or African myths and rituals, myths are still instructional stories for humans with intricate value … for the mind … and (hopefully) beyond the mind as well.
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.
While I may be grouping the distinctive fields of archeology and anthropology together, they are in fact diverse and rich in their own right. This is just my way of finding connections between traditions (refers to history in the previous part as well) in order to hopefully uncover greater facts or truths about any field of endeavor … in this case about mythology, of course. So, let’s continue.
History and anthropology are closely connected in their subject matter, as their mutual interest lies in discovering and illuminating the past as factually and determinately as possible. Anthropology, nevertheless, concerns itself more closely, directly and literally to the study of humanity, while archeology as its subfield for example enhances the subject matter through the discovery of remains and consequent function of when can be physically uncovered. The study of humanity is in the general sense the study of humanity’s past ... or in other words remains (hence the continuously important religious and social value of graves and burials rites). Those remains may be (archeologically) concretely discovered in the form of actual bones or artifacts that can be carbon-dated and placed within a narrower historic time-frame, so we may infer their value. Often, this is (anthropologically) done in connection with the current times, cultures and tradition that kind of act as balancing weight or a fluid constant through which we link our present human state with the past and mark the changes and constants in human (past, present and future) development. Further, by also incorporating linguistics and the biological and cultural anthropology as its subset, the central ideology of anthropology is a sort of holistic approach, while the study of humanity in general (the personal aspect) can only be perceived in a greater setting and contrasted with its larger cultural role (the social aspect).
Thus, through the discovery of remains on the coast of Asia Minor in connection to Homer’s accounts in the Iliad, we have a possible factual connection between myth and history. While the actual remains of a temple or a stronghold can hardly speak of its builders’ and inhabitants’ genuine beliefs and a mythological story based on historical accounts of a war between two forces in the Aegean area (yet embellished with divine participants) may only give an outline of what actually happened or what religious or cultural significance the conflict had, this physical connection to the story nevertheless remains.
Authors of any story are directly influenced by the environment they inhabit; so, while the Biblical account of the flood might be more or less directly linked to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, modern researchers can search for parallels between the story and the actual historic location that may have been subject to floods. Discovery of languages, their development and (crucially for the modern observer) their translations shed further light on the dark past.
In such a way, the creation account from Genesis 1:1-3 describes God as the creative force that names everything into existence. The “word of God”, as it is most commonly translated, actually refers to logos, which can mean word, but is equally connected (if not more) to the influential Greek philosophical thought commonly understood as reason. The difference can be quite profound to say the least (Note also how the young maiden got translated as virgin and presto: we have immaculate conception.) Translational issues can be a major concern in any type of cross-cultural references (let alone sacred texts), as many myths are seen from inside the tradition. Plus, the further back in (pre)history we go, the darker the veil that is placed in front of our far often ignorant gaze. Consequently, a mere story can facilitate geological, transcultural (syncretic), philosophical and historical clues.
If I give some more examples, the Akkadian word zikru from the Epic of Gilgamesh can mean either someone or word, consequently stressing the use of footnotes and endnotes in texts of such magnitude (an academic delight). Equally to logos, while the Buddhist term dukkha is generally translated as suffering, its much more authentic meaning as dissatisfaction or discontent come closer to its actual message. (The issue is even greater as plenty of good Western theoreticians of Buddhism fail to stress this notion that can ultimately hinder genuine comprehension of Buddhism. Because let’s face it, if you tell a Westerner that “life is suffering”, all the goth and emo nihilists with pick up their trusty razorblade and make another cut, because the image that pops into our head is more of Dante’s Inferno than philosophical discontent on both the personal and the social level.)
While the differentiation in the first case may not necessarily govern the subsequent development and reading of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the latter two examples touch upon vital religious dimensions of the respective Christian and Buddhist traditions, so such miscomprehension can be ideologically and philosophically damaging.
Anthropological and archeological work uncovers further (mis)connections to the “truths” revealed in myths, in a sense bringing the fossilized mythological accounts back to life by adding new layers of mythological understanding and meaning, which was their central function. The phrase can be taken quite literally, since anthropological and archeological work tries to uncover the hidden or forgotten reality of myths, as the cultures of their origin can be under attack by the modern reality of life. While for example the Victorian anthropologists, functionalists and symbolic anthropologists applied their research to better understanding the subject matter, their position nevertheless represented an outside view to the examined traditions and their stories. As such, the observations – whether gained from uncovered remains or being privy to a performance of a story – are mere interpretation of the original tradition. And that’s exactly what we are at the best of times: interpreters. If you say expert, regardless of the years of study and practice, that’s still just your ego boasting. And to that the Buddha says no bueno.
Although the inherent paradox of anthropological and archeological data remains, since the corresponding mythic accounts are generally oral in nature, this kind of research nevertheless uncovers symbolism and concrete material means which try to recreate the cultural environment in which (and through which) mythic narrative was brought to life and consequently continues to shine its relevance and revelation.
For reasons of extreme prejudice, the author of this blog wishes to remain anonymous …