“Myth is commonly taken to be words, often in the form of a story. A myth is read or heard. It says something. Yet there is an approach to myth that deems this view of myth artificial. According to the myth and ritual, or myth-ritualist, theory, myth does not stand by itself but is tied to ritual. Myth is no just a statement but an action. The least compromising form of the theory maintains that all myths have accompanying rituals and all rituals accompanying myths. In tamer versions some myths may flourish without rituals or some rituals without myths. Alternately, myths and rituals may originally operate together but subsequently go their separate ways. Or myths and rituals may arise separately but subsequently coalesce. Whatever the tie between myth and ritual, the myth-ritualist theory differs from other theories of myth and from other theories of ritual in focusing on the tie.”
“What holds our world together is not only the laws of physics, but language, myth and story. Our narratives create the framework in which our actions and our intentions have meaning, or at least some kind of order. It is very hard for us to live without any coherence at all. It may even be impossible, as our minds immediately begin to weave together some type of fable to support whatever it is we find ourselves doing.
Lately, I find myself switching back and forth between divergent models or myths of reality and seeking to integrate them. One of them is the story of progress and reason, the inheritance of the secular and scientific Enlightenment. The progressive believes that a flawed society can be improved by rational policy and political pressure. The world can be made better for more people, inequities reduced and healthcare guaranteed. Although he has been strategic in his pronouncements, Barack Obama seems the model of a progressive reformer, promoting the type of sensible policies that led to the New Deal and the Great Society.
The other mythic structure that entices me is occult and conspiratorial. According to this story, there is a hidden agenda beneath the fa?ade of chaotic events. This agenda is orchestrated by ‘them,’ that group of elite cabals and secret societies, an amalgam of Free Masons, Vatican priests, the descendents of the Nazi scientists brought to the U.S. after World War Two, and so on. To approach this concealed dimension of world affairs, to separate accurate insights from disinformation, is extremely difficult, and perhaps impossible.
The quest involves long reading lists of small-press and self-published tomes and many hours on YouTube, watching lectures presented by anxious men in drab conferences. From such unreliable sources, one learns that much alien technology has already been recovered and reverse-engineered, that a New World Order of total social control is being orchestrated, that the Ark of the Covenant is a torsion field generator perhaps hidden in the Pentagon, that shapeshifting reptilians are controlling everything, and other tidbits.”
(via Common Ground)
“As the main deity of the funerary cult, Osiris is shown as a mummy wearing the crown and holding the crook and flail as his royal insignia. But why is the god portrayed as a human being?
As is well known, anthropomorphy is a trait shared with all prominent members of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, often in combination with animal features. Likewise, ancient civilisations such as the Babylonians, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Persians, the Indians, the Chinese and the Aztec all widely painted, sculpted and described gods and goddesses in terms of human beings. This raises the question to what extent members of these cultures actually envisioned their gods as humans?
Euhemerus of Messene (4th century BCE) was a Greek mythographer credited with the view that the supernatural tales and characters featured in mythology were really exaggerations of mundane historical events. While his work has not withstood the ravages of time, various classical writers of the Imperial period reflected the opinion that the gods were really just extraordinary human beings.”
“I am fascinated by Canadian sculptor Brian Jungen’s remarkable work, using Nike sneakers and human hair to create these stunning mythic masks (very reminiscent of Pacific Northwest Indian art). The black, white, and red Air Jordons share the same bold palette as many Native American artifacts. Jungen is particularly intriqued by the way meaning is layered when a familiar object is repositioned to evoke something entirely different. “
“Timothy K. Beal is Florence Harkness Professor of Religion and director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. He has published eight books, including Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith (Beacon, 2005), which was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and one of Publishers Weekly‘s ten Best Religion Books of 2005; Religion and Its Monsters (Routledge, 2002), which was a Reviews in Religion and Theology Editor’s Choice; and The Book of Hiding: Gender, Ethnicity, and Annihilation in Esther (Routledge, 2007).
He has published essays on religion and American culture for The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He has been featured on radio shows including NPR’s All Things Considered and The Bob Edwards Show. He is co-editor, with Tod Linafelt, Georgetown University, of the book series Afterlives of the Bible with the University of Chicago Press. I was impressed with the perspective that Timothy brought to one of his books, Religion and Its Monsters, and Timothy made some time to discuss various aspects of the book with me.”
“I recently mentioned a new book that looked very interesting to me, Sith, Slayers, Stargates and Cyborgs: Modern Mythology and the New Millennium (Peter Lang Publishers, 2007), edited by David Whitt and John Perlich. Dr. David Whitt is Associate Professor of Communication at Nebraska Wesleyan University, and Dr. John Perlich is Associate Professor of Communication at Hastings College in Nebraska. I contacted David and John and they were were all too willing to discuss this fascinating book. After reviewing some of the chapters we had an opportunity to discuss aspects of the book.”
“It is undeniable that human beings in all times and cultures have been hardwired for spiritual experiences – some of course more than others. But is this proof of any of the multiple metaphysical belief systems that we tend, I would suggest, to superimpose onto the experience? The central difficulty here is that the altered state of a spiritual experience is so convincing (and so important, beautiful and meaningful in its own right) and we are so suggestible during and afterward, that it is almost ubiquitous to be convinced that the experience is undeniable (or at the very least strong) proof of whatever belief system the ensuing interpretation is coming from – when in actuality it is nothing of the sort!
Humans love to go into altered states. There is not a culture in the history of the planet that has not come up with some way of fermenting, drinking, eating, fasting, dancing, sweating, drumming, smoking, snorting, chanting, breathing, meditating, stretching, sensory depriving or sensory overloading its way into altered states of consciousness. In addition some people have more labile neurophysiology than others – be they epileptic, hypo-glycemic, bipolar, schizophrenic or merely garden-variety creative, empathic types with thin ego-boundaries.
Thankfully we have developed an ever-deepening understanding of some of the more extreme dysfunctions of the brain and have ways of diagnosing and treating these problems that are more effective than ever before. One cannot help but be curious about the similarities between say religious and schizophrenic statements about reality and wonder how much of the difference is one of degree, and to what extent the vocabulary of experience being used is coming from the same part of the brain.
It is undeniable that to both the person in the grips of an ardent religious conversion and the clinically insane the novel and metaphysical revelations being described are not only convincing but are held as extremely important, often not only for the individual in the grip of the experience, but for all of humanity. I want to suggest that this is an extreme form of an activity of our physiology and its related interior – the psyche, that at its best can be positively transformational, healing and creative and at its worse can be fundamentalist, violent and crazy.”
(via Julian Walker’s Blog)