Sunday, February 4, 2007

Mythology: Fact or Fiction?

Actually neither.

The mythologist Joseph Campbell used to practically stand on street corners warning people not to take mythology “literally”.

Did the Red Sea literally/factually part? Did the virgin birth historically happen? For Campbell, such questions are meaningless, since mythology (Christian, African, Scandinavian, etc.) has nothing to do with a newspaper version of reality.

Then why bother to read such stories? That's easy; it's because some truths can be talked about ONLY mythologically -- something like those things you can see only out of the corner of your eye.

The virgin birth, for example, can be understood as the opening of the heart chakra in the context of Kundalini Yoga, just as the "Promised Land" mythology surly has more to do with deeply personal awakenings than hypocritically coveting Palestinian real estate.

In any case, mythology appeals to our big, BIG picture sense of things and a sense of things which is indifferent to the certainty machines of literalized religion (the Red Sea really did part!) or white cassock science (which unconsciously hops from metaphor to metaphor).

Mythology speaks to our vulnerabilities, our humanness, and our LACK of certainty. But more generally, so do all the fine arts. So isn't it wonderful to escape the hubris of religious pamphlets and scientific monographs and be nourished by music, painting, literature -- and mythology.