The Mythology Anthology
My fascination with Mythology began when I was between 10 and 12 years old. My cousin was doing a “great brain” project at his school and he chose Mythology. The gist of the project was that they would become an expert (or as much of an expert as a 3rd/4th grader can become) on an topic of their own choosing. I have always been fascinated by new things to learn, and my brain is always hungry for a new topic. When I heard he was doing this I figured I would too, I didn’t really know anything about it and knowing that someone else was learning was a great motivational tool.
As my life continued from time to time I was always picking up books on the topic, My knowledge on the subject has aided in the various humanities courses that I have taken, some in High School, and some in my college career.
Shortly after being married my wife and I arranged to participate in her families “fairly annual” trip to Lake Siskyou in Northern California. At the time we (my wife and I) were living in Salt Lake City, Utah. It turned out that my wife was going to be in Southern California for work right before the trip so she arranged to ride up with her folks. So I ended up driving to the lake from SLC on my own. To keep myself company I went to the library to borrow a few “books on CD” as was a custom of my wife and I I got a few mysteries and novels, however I found a CD entitled “The Power of Myth“. It is a collection of interviews of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers. To say that discovering this recording was life changing would be an understatement. Even my trip to the lake was profoundly affected by listening to this recording let alone my outlook on religion and spirituality. The journey of discovery that I started because I listened to these interviews shook the foundations of my spiritual core and woke me up from a slumber that I had been in for the first 20 years of my life.
Today I can no longer view religion and spirituality the way that I had before. I love spirituality I believe it to be a profound part of every human being. Religion however is a very different thing. Last Sunday was Easter, my wife and I took our kids and attended the service at the Unitarian Universalist church that we have been attending for the past few months and the pastors each gave sermons that churned the gears in my over active mind and I came up with an idea for this blog.
I don’t believe in any religion anymore, however I don’t fault anyone for believing in a religion. I have come to believe that Religion is a tool for providing hope and that we all need to find hope in our lives to work through the times of trial that inevitably will afflict us. Religion is mythology and mythology is a body of myths/stories that groups of people believe to be true and that use the supernatural to interpret natural events and to explain the nature of the universe and humanity. We use mythology to answer the questions we have no answer to definable answer:
Who are we?
Why are we here?
Where are we going?
These three questions form the basis for every religion and every religion has developed a mythology to answer them. No offense to the Bible, the Quran, or Teachings of Buddha, in fact hopefully quite the opposite. In scholarly circles the calling a religious story a myth means that it is a religious story and nothing more it does not imply that it is true or false. In fact C.S. Lewis himself referred to the life of Jesus as a myth, that was also true (Lewis, God In The Dock, p. 66). All religions share the tradition of myth. Whether you read them in scripture or hear them told by elders, parents, and/or peers. They serve to bring us close to the divine, instruct us in the code of conduct we are to live by, and bring us hope. Myths can be categorized into the following types:
- Creation Myths– These are the that generally establish the frame work for answering the three questions I posed earlier. They are generally the first to clash with science, and tend to stir up controversy between religious and scientific communities. The describe the origin of the universe and set up the theological basis for the religion that they serve as the base of.
- Ritual Myths– These are the myths that establish the rituals of the religion for which they serve. These are important because these myths attach the meaning to the actions that religious practitioners participate and find peace and hope in.
- Eschatological Myths– Myths that describe the end of the world in terms that inspire or warn the practitioners of the religion of which they are associated.
- Etiological (origin) Myths– These myths provide explanation for customs, names, natural phenomena, etc… These generally are the easiest to be skeptical about and often came about for practical purposes or because no one had a better explanation.
- Social Myths– These myths defend the traditions or practices that we hold dear. They reinforce our belief in and practice of these traditions.
- Fable Myths– Often times these are referred to as trickster myths as they often describe pranks and tricks perpetrated by deity(ies). There is often a moral associated with these and were most likely devised as a way to encourage proper behavior for children.
These myths are powerful wonderful things and probably the greatest gift they give us is that they aid us to, as Joseph Campbell advises us, to “Follow (y)our bliss“.
Regardless of religious preference we all have been subject to, heard of, or believe in myths. This weekend after long contemplation on the sermons that I heard the idea occur ed to me to create an anthology of religious stories/myths. I thought that a blog would be the ideal format as I could tag the stories with the traits they possessed making it easier to compare and contrast. Among the many reasons for this project are enlightenment, education, resource, research, spiritual growth, etc… However if this does nothing else I hope it helps to underscore that despite the many traditions we practice, the varied beliefs we practice, and the different places from which we come at our roots we are more similar than we realize.