Entering the Mythic Mind

As a part of Polytheistic devotions, the myths need to be read and pondered. Since they are taught as simply stories, myths have lost their sacredness for the everyday person. To counter that, a reader can recall William Butler Yeats placing the poet at the meeting point between heaven and earth. To Yeats, a poet’s calling was to be the oracle connecting two realms. Therefore, a myth can be regarded in this manner.

Myths shape the meaning of human existence within the cosmos. They connect the ordinary with the numinous, by offering symbols to ponder. Understanding them is critical in developing the right way of living. By sharing a gnosis of the various Gods, a myth unlocks the sacred.

Entering the myth means leaving behind the concept of Materialism. This philosophy insists that physical matter is the fundamental reality. It can be regarded by the religious as the denial of the Spirit in all things. Materialism is reflected in the belief that the Gods are only figments of the imagination. The corollary to this is the dogma of Mechanism. That says that everything that happens is the result of predictable cause and effect. In contrast, mythic words are magic, for they weave the world into being.

The mythic mind perceives the world not as an object of thought but as a subject of feeling. While the intellectual tradition of the West emphasizes logic and rationality, the mythic mind moves through perceptions. That means polygenesis is expected and welcomed. Multiple creation stories, which contradict each other, fit together as a whole. For example, in Egyptian mythology, Hathor showed that the fruitfulness of the world is sacred. Meanwhile, Ptah spoke the world, and wisdom was recognized. The world became a living being who “involved a simultaneity of opposite states.”

In “A Secret History of Consciousness,” Gary Lachman writes “The mythic structure existed in a kind of sacred circle (temenos) a self-enclosed sphere containing the polarities of Heaven and Earth, a kind of Cosmic Egg whose protective shell housed human consciousness.” Things are neither this nor that, but before or beyond or both. Time is not linear moving from a past to a present to a future. Past and future are meaningless because time holds all at once. The past is in the present, the future in the past, since events move from a beginning and return.

Reading a myth entails many levels of “seeing.” Myths both make the world and redefine it. To understand a myth deeply is to be transformed by the sacred. It presents the truth that illuminates the reality that everyone is a part of.

(I am planning to blog further on reading myths.)

Levels of reading a myth:
Time:
What is the temporal relation between the teller and listener? Between the various relationships within the myth?

Space:
What is the chronotope (how time relates to space)? What is the structure of the cosmos? What is featured in the myth as landscape?

Quantity (Number):
What numbers have special associations?

Quality (Kind):
What is being described and how? Are there genealogies or a unity of opposites?

Relations/Cause:
The entities in the myth are linked in multiple ways. How do they interact and influence the world? Are things created out of nothing?

2 thoughts on “Entering the Mythic Mind

  1. I love this. I think a lot of polytheist, after having been raised in monotheist traditions for most of their lives, as the vast majority of modern Western polytheists have been, tend to skew toward mythic literalism. They take the stories at face value and treat them to a sort of exegesis comparable to Christian theologians and the Bible. But that’s not the purpose of myths. We need to work on remembering that and this post definitely helps with that

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some great thoughts. Have been reflecting a lot on the need for myths for some years, but the above articulates a lot that I could not. What was it Sallustius said? Something like, “these things never happened, but always are.” As the commenter above notes, there’s a weird similarity between the Biblical literalists of our era and the fundamentalist materialism you get from some in the atheist community.

    From a purely pragmatic standpoint, cultures cannot survive without myths; an attempt to prune them away simply causes new myths to grow in their place. They are communal memory palaces–every element of a myth is a door that opens into rooms upon rooms, effectively encoding a worldview. When we meditate on the myths, we travel these same well-trodden paths.

    Yet they are more than this, I think, too. They are our link to the gods.

    Liked by 2 people

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