August 26, 2013

The poetry of myth

El Cabrero has been on the road this week. Instead of ranting about current events, I'm trying to settle accounts with the ideas of Joseph Campbell, the famous student of mythology. My short take is that when he's good, he's really good. And the converse.

Here's some classic Campbell:

Whenever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives is dissolved. Such a blight has certainly descended on the Bible and on a great part of the Christian cult.
To bring the images back to life, one has to seek, not interesting applications to modern affairs, but illuminating hints from the inspired past. When these are found, vast areas of half-dead iconography disclose again their permanently human meaning.
It's hard not to agree with a good bit of that, especially when you think about the lunacies of literalism, such as "creation science." I can't go all the way with Campbell and am allergic to his politics but he does have his moments.

JUST ONE LINK. Here's my latest rant on cuts to the Head Start program. Notice that I performed the charitable act of feeding a troll.


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