Saturday, October 13, 2012

Joseph Campbell and Paul Broun

From Joseph Campbell's Myths to Live By and the chapter written in 1961 titled "The Impact of Science on Myth", referring to Sigmund Freud he writes:

His psychology, however, being of an essentially rational kind, insufficiently attentive to the more deeply based, irrational impulsions of our nature, he assumed that when a custom or belief was shown to be unreasonable, it would presently disappear. And how wrong he was can be shown simply by pointing to any professor of philosophy at play in a bowling alley: watch him twist and turn after the ball has left his hand, to bring it over to the standing pins.
And thus Freud, like Frazer, judged the worlds of myth, magic, and religion negatively, as errors to be refuted, surpassed, and supplanted finally by science.


An altogether different approach is represented by Carl G. Jung, in whose view the imageries of mythology and religion serve positive, life-furthering ends. According to his way of thinking, all the organs of our bodies—not only those of sex and aggression—have their purposes and motives, some being subject to conscious control, others, however, not. Our outward-oriented consciousness, addressed to the demands of the day, may lose touch with these inward forces; and the myths, states Jung, when correctly read, are the means to bring us back in touch. They are telling us in picture language of powers of the psyche to be recognized and integrated in our lives, powers that have been common to the human spirit forever, and which represent that wisdom of the species by which man has weathered the millenniums. Thus they have not been, and can never be, displaced by the findings of science, which relate rather to the outside world than to the depths that we enter in sleep. Through a dialogue conducted with these inward forces through our dreams and through a study of myths, we can learn to know and come to terms with the greater horizon of our own deeper and wiser, inward self. And analogously, the society that cherishes and keeps its myths alive will be nourished from the soundest, richest strata of the human spirit.

Yes, "imageries of mythology and religion serve positive, life-furthering ends".  That is why when the literal nature of these important imageries are questioned, some people feel threatened.  Prime contemporary examples are such as Paul Broun who recently claimed that 'evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.'  Then there is Todd Akin who says evolution is not a matter of science.  And these two people sit on the House Science and Technology Committee.  Amazing.  You see it often, in our postmodern times.  In the nineties we were told by the postmodernists, who were usually considered to be leftists, that there is no truth only interpretation.  In the US,there is a subset of people who consider thermselves to be conservative who apparently agree with this and who think that if they believe hard enough, things they fear like evolution and climate change, will go away. 

We still need to learn to the right way to keep our myths alive while at the same time not lying to ourselves.

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