A Myth Is Not A Lie?
I went to visit my folks over the fathers day weekend. And as usual, my dad and I got into a variety of debates about life, religion, etc.
Our conversations often surround some aspect of religion that leave him adamantly articulating a textbook religious position, and me grasping for other possibilities.
David Eagleman argues for what he calls possibilianism, which rejects many of the claims of traditional theism, and also the certainty expressed by atheist, leaving way for a middle ground of possibilities. And in some ways…my dad and I nibble on this concept through our conversations. Or maybe better put, I attempt to spearhead this effort.
Although my dad often leans towards seeing the world through a more traditionally religious understanding of God, I attribute much of my questioning posture today…to him.
It’s not uncommon for him to ideate about quantum physics…string theory…and a number of much more nuanced ways of seeing reality. It’s the scientist in him I guess. And it’s this commitment to critical thinking that may have been inherited somehow.
But when the subject turns to religion…there always seems to be this momentous bedrock of a traditional religious worldview that directs his life. And sometimes I can sense the battle between that desire to explore, and the comfort of what he has always known.
And me? At this point in my life…I tend to lean away from organized religion, but not to the extent that I discontinue to challenge myself on this question of God.
On The Subject of Myth
One of our conversations settled on how it could be possible that there was only one way to God, or one religion that was the key to mans salvation, when history, and present day, are full of cultures who never heard a specific literal church doctrine?
Is it possible that truth is somehow bigger than the idea that one organized religion can monopolize?
Enter Joseph Campbell.
Author…Thinker…and American Mythologist. I’ve been reading some of his work lately. And the conversations between my father and I, made me think of this subject of myth, and how Campbell entertains the possibility that a non literal take on many of the religious stories, reveal something universal.
The gist of his work is similar to David Eaglemans Possibilianism. Only in the sense that he offers a middle ground, another way of looking at reality.
Here is a video that introduces his ideas.
Just in the first few minutes, he tackles a misconception surrounding what a myth is – that it is a lie…He stresses that it is metaphor…and then goes on to clarify what a metaphor is.
Summary Of First 5 minutes of Video:
To illustrate…he tells a story about an encounter he had with someone who was interviewing him…and what Campbell realizes, was that the gentleman didn’t understand what a metaphor was….
The interviewer gives an example for metaphor like this:
“So and so runs very fast…people say he runs like a deer.”
Campbell disagrees, and says no.
The metaphor is…he is a deer.
He goes on to state that, “God is a metaphor for a mystery that transcends all categories of thought. Even the categories of being and non being…
whether its doing you any good…if its not…then its a lie.”
“Half of the people in the world are religious people who think their metaphors are facts..those are what we call theist…the other half are people who know that those metaphors are not fact, and so think they are lies…and those are the atheist.”
Is there another way to look at this?
What are your thoughts? Some questions I had after watching the video, and as I began to read Campbell’s work…are as follows…
Are all myths created equal? What universal moral themes do we use to weigh whether a myth is worth living by? Even if what religious people hold as fact, contains the Truth via metaphor…Do we not need some hierarchy of the mythological?