Reply To: The Blooming of Truth: Campbell on the Mythic Past, with Norland Tellez, Ph.D.
I totally agree about the way in which neo-liberal ideology—with its politically-correct “multi-cultural” pseudo-feminist virtue signaling—has not only ruined cinema but the whole culture at large. I am totally in sympathy with what you say regarding the last Star Wars films which I forced myself to watch simply as a spectacular opportunity for the pleasure of dismantling propaganda in my head as I watch it. This is always a great refuge available to us when we bring critical mindfulness to the movies: if the movie sucks you can always enjoy your mental process of dismantling it, especially when this psychic activity is aimed at the unconcealment of a mytho-historic truth the film does not want you to see.
As to the repressive mechanisms that stand in the way of this unconcealment, ideology is first and foremost. Ideology is symbolized at one level by the order of the Father, the force of tradition and social norms, in which we initially find ourselves. But the Call to Adventure bids us leave the comfort zone of our cherished beliefs and habitual assumptions by opening ourselves up to (an often painful) truth of archetypal proportions. Just think of The Lord of the Rings and the way the possession of the One Ring pointed to the painful truth of the existence of Evil within symbolized by Sauron. As we all know, this adventure takes Frodo in one-way ticket out of the Shire, the homeland of our national ideological identity, in an adventure that begins by confronting the evil that lies within the possession of the One Ring of Ideology.
Now, this adventure is possible the minute we allow an existential sense of historicity to enter the picture. You are right that mythistory worked well for the ancients but for us it is important to separate history from myth in the conventional sense of distinguishing the true from the false. But true historiography is so much more than a compilation of individual historical facts and contingencies. Such a tabulation of historical data would be meaningless on its own. There is an order in it and this order is supplied by mythic patterns and structures that remain somehow constant and changing at the same time across the centuries. That is why the best book I can recommend on the subject of mytho-history is Joseph Mali’s book Mythistory which is subtitled The Making of Modern Historiography. For in it he shows how much modern historiography is already sustained by mythic patterns.
You see, the mythic element of historiography comes to the foreground in the MAKING process, through the necessity of having to introduce a narrative thread to bind all the facts and details into a meaningful temporal succession. It is here that Mali cites Nietzsche among others in order to put forth a specific modern conception of historiography as based on the dialectical pattern Mali calls “the recognition of myth”:
“It becomes impossible to overcome history in the name of life or to forget the past in the name of modernity, because both are linked by a temporal chain that gives them a common destiny.”
I’ll end with Mali’s own words on what he understands by this project of modern historiography:
Following on this astute conception of the modern, I redefine mythistory accordingly. My main argument is that this classic-romantic historiagraphical tradition initiated a certain movement in modern historiography that is modern historiography in the original and full sense of the term. As proponents of the “modern,” from Baudelaire (who first gave the term its current connotations) through Nietzsche (who first defined thereby a new kind of historiography) to all their many followers, have claimed in their artistic and theoretical works, the “modern” consists in the recognition of myth as the primal “order” in human life and history. (11)