MythBlast | The Uses of Myth: Disengage Your Arrows
As an opening salvo for this month’s conversation, I’d like to share an idea from Campbell’s prologue to Primitive Mythology, the first title in his series, The Masks of God. In this articulation of mythology’s abiding role in the human– and as he suggests a few paragraphs later, even beyond human – experience and life, what intrigues me most is that he quantifies the study of this role as a science. This prologue is entitled, “The Lineaments of a New Science.”
While I think that perceiving the study of myth as a scientific one versus other disciplines is an opening point for a grand argument (lots of grand arguments, actually), what it has opened for me, and I’m hoping that it might open for you, is the broader idea of one of mythology’s uses as an invitation to think.
Often, I find, we can use mythology to shore up our own assumptions about ourselves, our values, and our cultures. It is one of the dangers of embracing what we define as archetypal or mythic too literally and closely, so it justifies beliefs rather than opening them. I think one of myth’s highest and best uses, to borrow a phrase from the prosaic world of real estate development, is to understand that its deepest beauty isn’t in building the metaphorical high rise, but instead allowing the ground to lay somewhat fallow, in terms of our own certainty, and instead use it as an invitation to invite us to the uncertainties it offers, so we can think, and think hard.
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