The Monomyth: Why Campbell has never been entirely satisfying

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by dauer, May 2, 2007.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Lunamoth –

    I think you've touched on an important element that's been 'skated across', as it were, but is fundamental to the discussion of myth as a literary form deployed within the context of a sacra doctrina that employs a number of literary forms.

    This is a misconception of myth, as you rightly point out. I would say myth 'conveys' a truth that is otherwise inaccessible. Genesis is a 'myth' in the sense that there were no witnesses to the events in Paradise, so it's a story ... but the wisdom it conveys, utilising myth, is transmitted in the most succinct and accessible fashion.

    Here we run into trouble. Bultmann, for example, drew the conclusion that because the gospels tell a story that shares many elements with the mythologies of antiquity ... a meeting with the gods, miracles, prophecy, wisdom ... then the gospels are a myth constructed by the early communities ... there were no miracles, no Baptism, no Transfiguration, no Eucharist, definitely no Resurrection, no Ascension ... he went so far as to suggest that the Person of Jesus Christ himself is a myth ...

    This could be read to imply that the Gospels never actually 'happened', there were no miracles, no visions, no healings, no feeding ... but rather a complex and profound fiction to express a truth beyond all human access and comprehension, and here, of course, you would run intro trouble with orthodoxy...

    My view is close to my reading of Dauer's original comment ... it seems implicit in Campbell that because myth is a means of conveying a spiritual reality, then all expressions of the spiritual are necessarily mythological, which I think is putting the cart before the horse.

    Is it the old dualism rearing its head again ... the insistence that God cannot intervene directly into human affairs?

    Thomas
     
  2. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    I wonder if Schrödinger's cat would be considered a myth 5,000 years from now? :cool:
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Not just his cat ... Schrödinger himself will no doubt also be relegated.

    Thomas
     
  4. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    I think Schrödinger's Cat, The Big Bang, and The Watchmaker all have great mythic potential.
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Is that not Dauer's point, though?

    Because something has mythic potential, is it a myth? Cannot reality have a mythic potential, and yet be real.

    The question is important, because once you start 'undoing' the content of any given sacra doctrina, then we come down to one's individual reason and logic determining what is myth and what isn't, and then what God can do, and what God can't ... and then the whole thing is reduced to a relativism.

    So we could say that Jesus was not, in fact, the Incarnate Son, but a bit of an odd-ball ... that Buddha was not, in fact, enlightened at all, but just blissed out on the idea that ignorance is bliss ...

    Another important stream, and a massive assumption, is that if this is a myth about God, and that is a myth about God, then both talk about the same thing, in their own way ...

    ... like the assumption that all religions are equal ... and therefore the same mechanism of mythology applies to them all ... how do we know that?

    Thomas
     
  6. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    You would run the risk of Schrödinger's cat getting mixed up with Jung's archtypes, so to speak. (or babbel.) :eek:
     
  7. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Hi Thomas,

    Good points and I was thinking about this as well when I made that post. Certainly the Gospel is not less than mythic. We each get to make our own decision about what actually happened and what that all means, which is what I was getting at when I said 'entering into it.' Not just pretending that we think it is 'real.' For example, I conclude (intellectually) that Jesus did in fact walk the earth (the historical fact) and that the Gospels are very real testimony of what the people who knew Him concluded about Him, and what was very real to them (the Resurrection). I get to choose, based upon that testimony (Scripture), my heritage as a Christian (Tradition), and my understanding and experience (Reason), Who He was. In Campbellism you can give your 'head' to the myth. In Christianity you give your heart.

    I hope that does not seem wishy washy or side-stepping. :)

    Oh yeah, I realize now that I kind of took us off-topic of dauer's OP about the monomyth.

    luna
     
  8. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    I guess it comes down to convictions on how much of it you want to accept as real. In the case of the Gospel accounts, even if someone believes that the idea of the resurrection of a God-man figure is a compilation of previous stories or ideas, would that necessarily discount the hope of a personal resurrection? Perhaps there are enough elements in the myth to allow the possibility of a resurrection or afterlife, or whatever. On the otherhand, it would seem more hopeful if there was a person named Jesus who preached the kingdom of God, performed miracles, was killed, but revived after three days. To believe such is to give concreteness to the account, and help solidify you own convictions.
     
  9. dauer

    dauer Well-Known Member

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    Thomas,

    I wasn't seeing exactly that in Campbell, although I do think that is also putting the cart before the horse, but more the problem I have is the claim that it's the same story everywhere. Really, by permuting the various events that can happen in his model, a person can end up with very different stories. And on top of that, for any given people, their myths can have many more attached meanings besides those he's ascribed. In addition to that he really seems to be noting mostly that in myth there is entry into conflict, the conflict itself, and then some sort of resolution which isn't very revelatory at all. Maybe it was when he wrote it but I can't really imagine so. I may have misunderstood you though. Your follow-up post seems to be pointing closer to what I was saying. I really don't think the risk of confusing literature for sacred myth is so great because ordinary literature isn't canon for anyone, and I really think that canonization is key in the process of myth becoming Myth. That is not to say I think it would be wrong to view Myth on one level as literature or to view literature as a form of myth.

    Luna,

    Perfectly alright. I change the flow of my own threads all the time. Conversation will carry where it does. Long as it's moving along.

    Dauer
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Dauer –

    Absolutely. It seems a reductionist methodology to me, and it's most apparent, and most destructive, when applied to the 'inner' experiences of a people.

    Indeed.


    Well, not sure if I read you right, this time round, but we'd have to qualify what counts as 'ordinary' literature ... but I would say, from a Christian perspective, or necessarily a Catholic one today, that many 'confuse' or relegate the gospels to sacred myth, whereas in fact it is 'ordinary' literature in that it tells what happened ... albeit extraordinary events?

    I would argue this point, obviously.

    Current Catholic biblical scholarship has made great advances in this area since Vatican II, and the acknowledgement that sacra doctrina comprises a number of literary forms – mythic, poetic, biographic, liturgical, mystical, prophetical, exegetic ... I have recently been reasearching the differences between Hellenic 'metaphor' as a device, compared to the Hebraic 'masal', for example.

    Thomas
     
  11. dauer

    dauer Well-Known Member

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    I think by ordinary literature what I mean in more specific terms is that which has not gone through the process of becoming canon. That which isn't canon can still be regarded as spiritual, or as of having great insight, but it's not really treated the same way as something that is. It is for this reason that I think the inherent danger is less. Of course there is always the possibility that someday a group decides to canonize the works of Dr. Seuss but at that point, at least for them, it's transcended ordinary literature.

    I know this might be a point of contention. For me I'm less concerned that non-canonical literature might become canon and am focusing more on the fact that the literature which isn't already canon for us, we tend to view it a little differently. I can use myself as an example. Even though I find a lot of meaning and value inherent in sacred literature that is canon for other people, I do not regard it in the same way as that which I hold canon, or make it so much of a focus in my life.

    Dauer
     
  12. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Oh, got you ... yes, that rule applies to us Catlicks, Scripture is Canon ... the works of the Doctors, Fathers etc., might be 'inspired' and definitely spiritual, and shapes the nature of Catholicism, but it ain't Canon, and one is not obliged to accept it ... although, 'when all are in accord' the works of the Fathers becomes not infallible, but a safe bet...

    Mind you, Augustine's "Oh Lord, please make me chaste, but not yet!" has accrued almost mythological status over the years! ... and then again, it is widely held that Origen had himself castrated to become 'a eunuch for God', but there are those who are beginning to challenge this assertion ...

    ... mythology can be a bit of a minefield ...

    Thomas
     
  13. Sunny C.

    Sunny C. Well-Known Member

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    Hi.

    Lunamoth said this:
    I'm looking at myth making as an ongoing active process necessary to create a sort of mind-body bond which allows practical consciousness. It's a survival skill, really. We begin to create our personal mythology in early childhood through role playing and imagination. And we connect that mythical self with with the larger myths that influence our culture, our country, our world, and our sense of deity.

    Then there's "Mythology", in the Bulfinch sense. I see that as the accumulated exoskeletons of the mythical past. Lots of pretty little shells which seem to suggest patterns. Pretty little beads to construct lots of interesting shapes.
     
  14. Sunny C.

    Sunny C. Well-Known Member

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    What's the difference between meta myth and monomyth? Doesn't Christianity propose itself as the sole posessor of THE metamyth? How is that not monomythical?
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Not sure what you mean by this?

    Hi, by the way ...


    Thomas
     
  16. Alvis Rofhessa

    Alvis Rofhessa Active Member

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    "Mythology" like the bible is about holism/in/truth/survival vs dualism/out "quest" throut the whole of Human/World/cyclical Time/(Hi)story (& prophecy).

    All religions/mythologies d/evolved from one common original religion.

    Whole/rise-climax/evolv/progress ->
    fallen/dualis/conflict/devolv/corrupt/mixed/stolen/inverse/mad/lie/[nothing?]
    -> rebirth/whole/new/reconcil/[sync?]/enlighten/immortal.

    Origins/history/memory -> destiny/end/prophecy.
     
  17. Sunny C.

    Sunny C. Well-Known Member

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    What the heck does that mean Alvis?

    Hi Thomas.

    I get the feeling that I'm laboring under a different definition of mythology than everyone else. You've all agreed that "myth" doesn't mean "false", but I'm wondering... Let me put it this way, is the Christian meta-mythology: God and the Logos, the creation and other foundational myths, and especially the Satan myth- the only valid mythological landscape? Are all other mythologies irrelevant, superstitious fables?

    The Logos says he's the only way to the Father. So either all mythological paths converge in the Christian path, or Christian mythology is part of a larger, possibly universal metamyth, or there's only one valid, non fictitious primal mythology-- a monomythology to go with monotheism.
     
  18. Alvis Rofhessa

    Alvis Rofhessa Active Member

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    Sorry I tend to condense as much as I can into few as possible sentences.
    Breaking what I said into various ideas it includes:
    - "myth" in quote marks means not fiction definition;
    - myth is like bible;
    - myth is (about) Holism;
    - myth is about In/Whole/Good versus Out/Dual/Evil/Fallen;
    - myth is about the whole of World Time as a whole, (myth is history, myth is prophecy);
    - Whole -> Fallen -> Whole.
    The point of difference between mythology/pagan/occult/"satanism", and judaeo-xtian is the definition of the ultimate Whole/In/Good. (Origin(s) different like creation vs evolution &/or transfirmia.)
     
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    That's the orthodox viewpoint.

    This I think highlights the fundamental problem with a Universal Religion, or the Religio Perennis, or with esoterim in general ... it assumes there is the One, (whatever it may be called) that is visible and apprehendable ... a contradiction when it, and every profound spiritual wisdom, insists that the One is beyond all distinction, therefore beyond comprehension – It is Absolute-unto-Itself, 'not this, not that'; 'The Tao that is not the Tao and cannot be known', the 'Godhead' or 'Trinity' ... the ultimate state of Unity being One.

    So the latter exists in an abstract and intellectual sense, but then so do unicorns, and this is why St Anselm's ontological argument was gently refuted by orthodoxy, because the intellectus is subject to fantasia, the tendency to believe in its own imaginings (the argument of ontology is still the subject of philosophy however, so the book is not closed). What is imagined might be right (and this is speculative theology, or philosophy) but it is speculative, without corroborating data – through the senses (and experiment) or through Revelation (through faith in the evidence of the senses).

    The orthodox viewpoint, however, precludes any such argument of mythology on the basis of its faith in the reality of the Incarnation.

    Thomas
     
  20. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Off the Beaten Path

    Sunny, Here's a blog I think you might find interesting. It's extremely well-written. Check out Angels in the Architecture.

    luna
     

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