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Saturday January 15, 2005: The Makers of Myths

        Lately I've been listening to myths - audio-cassettes explaining myths of ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. It has not been a comfortable situation for me. It's hard to sit quietly and listen to these myths, told over and over in the same traditional format.

        The first telling of any myth is obviously lost to history - oral tradition passed along, generation after generation. Who can say how many changes were made before a particular story was recorded on stone or clay, papyrus or animal skin? Even for those stories recorded, we have an incomplete history. We know a people’s myths by what survives political history; ideas must remain popular enough to be maintained, copied, translated. What is written or carved must survive wars and environmental conditions.

        I say this now because I want to explore some myths in other forms, and my own background will definitely affect the retelling and the interpretation. For starters, I agree with much said about the value of myths. That myths have endured and the stories have been retold for generations suggest more than stories for entertainment or social bonding, more than fairy tales with a moral. They connect with a very deep part of our psyche.

        For some, myths still serve a modern day function as metaphors of an inner journey, revealing the deeper aspects of human behavior and human potential. Others see these stories as divine history, our only insights into primordial time. Some may see the stories as simply fictional accounts invented to explain proper and improper behavior for social interaction, to find meaning in the events and situations of the world in which we must live. For this last group, the image of a god figure (with expanded human capabilities) was created out of human need, a desperate desire to believe in a higher power capable of controlling what we cannot control, a power that might still take interest in our welfare if approached with proper respect and reverence.

        There may always be parts of reality that remain beyond the realm of empirical proof. We assume that early man asked the same questions we ask today: how did the reality of this existence begin? What is the purpose to life? Is there life after death? How does one explain or understand the good and bad events of our world?

        I see several options to define the first myth-makers. Searching for the meaning of life outside ourselves, the earliest story tellers could have drawn on deep inner truths, much in the manner of today's best fiction writers. They could have used cultural beliefs in gods or heros to fashion stories that would allow future generations to recall the important lessons of earlier events. Memory serves better when mixed with enjoyment, and perhaps the social lessons of history were more important than actual facts. The stories felt plausible, connecting so deeply with people's psyche that later generations believed the elements within the story were true -- divine revelation.

       The human brain is hardwired to ‘connect the dots,’ to find patterns which join isolated events into a singular awareness of oneself, moving through time. Myth-makers could have reached for some means to put the events of life into a larger context, and been struck by intuitive insights. Because these insights seemed to come from outside their own experience, the myth-makers themselves (or later generations) could have believed the stories were divine inspiration.

      Some (or all) myth-makers in earliest times may have actually opened up to higher dimensions. From the highest levels, one comprehends the beginnings of all patterns. The difficulty comes from an awareness that exists beyond words or images: the mind must struggle to lock that perception into terms the brain can store in memory. How one brings that information back into everyday reality, and then crafts a story to explain to others, will always be dependent on one’s time and place in history. The myth may remain an accurate retelling of a perception while the symbolic events and characters take on quite a different interpretation by later generations.

        The problem remains that we can never go back in time to the first teller of a particular myth. We can never know if a myth sprang from creative fiction, human intuition, or divine revelation. For that reason, whenever I do a section on mythology I want to look at the story from multidimensional viewpoints. I may approach the myths with a far greater flexibility than other writers, but sometimes we get so locked into the ‘accepted interpretation’ that we may ignore other truths.

To be continued.......

Posted on Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 12:55PM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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