Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Myth, Religion and Culture

Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the
cosmos pour into culture.
-Joseph Cambell

Myth is the ark which carries the knowledge of what it takes
to remain human, set loose upon the vast sea of time.

Mythology, religion and culture are inextricably intertwined. Because of this, rationalists often point to what they call the sheer absurdity of myths in order to ridicule the world's religious traditions. However, it could be argued that it is the very preposterousness of the stories connected to the origins of the world religions that makes them so valuable. They are a kind of antidote to rationalism. They are not realistic; they are hyper-realistic. They present us with hypothetical situations that we could never experience, in a literal sense, in the 'real' world but without the contemplation of which, we cannot be fully human. Perhaps the great myths are the most precious dreams of the Self which dreams the world. Through these dreams we start to doubt our ego-selves and become real.

Religious fundamentalists are literalists: they are unable to absorb the poetic, speculative, imaginative dimension of mythological and religious texts. Rationalists who ridicule the sacred mythologies from which the world cultures sprang, are often guilty of the same literalism.

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